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Tech News: Former Google, Twitter Lawyer Takes New Job at the White House

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Plus, a public preview of Windows Blue, the government is closer to using iPhones and iPads, and the coming battle in the House over an online sales tax bill.

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A Senior Google and Twitter Lawyer Will Become the First Chief Privacy Officer of the White House

CNET reported today that the White House has selected Nicole Wong to be the first ever Chief Privacy Officer. Wong, who has a strong reputation of standing up for liberty and free expression on the Internet, has worked as a senior lawyer at both Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Twitter. The appointment has yet to be confirmed.

Wong led legal battles against the government of Turkey and Pakistan regarding YouTube censorship and has experience working with the cyber-advocacy group The Electric Frontier Foundation. She is the second former Google employee to be hired by the White House; Michelle Lee was hired in November to head the US Patent Office.

Microsoft Announces Public Preview of Windows Blue for Late June

At the WIRED Business Conference today, Julie Larson-Green, the head of engineering for Windows, announced that all Windows 8 users would have access to a public preview of Windows Blue, Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) next operating system, in June. The preview will probably coincide with the sold-out Microsoft Build 2013 conference for developers, which is being held during the last week of June.

Windows 8, the company's most current operating system, has been struggling to take its place, with only 2.26% of the market share as of January (though Windows 7 and Windows XP together still made up 83.99% of global market share in January).

Windows Blue is expected to mark the return of the standard Start button that Windows users know so well, as well as a feature to boot straight into Desktop mode, as opposed to the new Metro mode that diverged so radically from previous Windows operating systems,

The Government Is Closer to Using iPhones and Macs

A cryptographic module for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS 6 operating system has received Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 certification from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The module, the Apple iOS CoreCrypto Kernel Module 3.0, met FIPS level 1 certification, meaning that it provides the lowest level of security, but enough so that no physical mechanisms are required to make the device it is running on safe for non-classified communication.

This certification means that the government is definitely moving forward with plans to use iPhones and other Apple products, where it has traditionally used the enterprise security friendly BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY).

On May 2, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US Department of Defense would soon approve iPhone and iPads running iOS 6 for use by military agencies for non-classified communication, including email and Web browsing. The Wall Street Journal also reported that competitor Samsung (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) would also receive the same approval. As the DOD has the largest number of employees of any government agency, the news should be a boon for both Apple and Samsung.

Online Sales Tax Legislation Faces a Tough Fight in the House

The Democrat-controlled Senate has voted 69 to 27 to push forward a bill that would give states the right to enforce sales tax laws on online purchases, but the Republican-controlled House will definitely give the bill a tough time. Speaker of the House John Boehner has already said that he plans to send the bill to the House Judiciary Committee, meaning hearings will follow. A spokeswoman for Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte has said that he has reservations about the bill, given its complexity and potential to negatively impact small businesses.

The bill will allow states to require out-of-state retailers to charge sales tax on all purchases made on the Internet, even if the company has no physical presence in the state. The bill leaves the decision whether or not to charge sales tax to the discretion of the states.

The bill has support from most Democrats and many large brick-and-mortar retailers like Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), though Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) also supports the bill, as the company wants to simplify its payments of US state sales tax. Siding with the Republicans, online retailers such as eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) and Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK) oppose the proposal.

Chris Krueger, an analyst at Guggenheim Securities, said of the bill's chances, "We place a 30% probability that the bill is signed into law by the end of the year, primarily due to opposition in the House.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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