News in Brief

FTC's newest techie, a NOAA staffer indictment and more bad news for USIS

data center

FTC hires Pulitzer-winning technologist

Ashkan Soltani, an expert on the intersection of privacy and technology and a contributor to the Washington Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles on National Security Agency surveillance, has been tapped by the Federal Trade Commission to serve as its chief technologist.

Soltani is replacing Latanya Sweeny, who is returning to her post as director of the Data Privacy Lab at Harvard University.

Soltani previously served with the consumer watchdog agency in 2010 and 2011 and has advised the commission on technical matters. He has studied online advertising and user-tracking techniques as a researcher, and consulted with the FTC and other consumer protection agencies, leading investigations into Google, Twitter, Facebook and other high profile technology companies and services.

He has also contributed to the New York Times and consulted on the Wall Street Journal's award-winning "What They Know" series that documented the reach of data brokers into the lives of consumers.

ViON to handle data storage for Patent Office

ViON Corp. will provide the Patent and Trademark Office with storage services across three data centers in a contract the firm says is worth about $139 million over seven years.

The contract is part of a private cloud project the PTO is carrying out, the Herndon, Va.-based firm said. Vion will own and manage the storage infrastructure.

NOAA employee indicted for stealing files

A hydrologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been indicted for allegedly downloading restricted files from the National Inventory of Dams, a database run by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The alleged activity took place in May 2012. Xiafen “Sherry” Chen, 59, is also accused of lying to Commerce Department investigators. FBI agents arrested her Oct. 20 at a NOAA facility in Wilmington, Ohio.

More bad news for USIS

Washington Technology reports that U.S. Investigative Services -- the firm that lost its background-investigations business this summer when the Office of Personnel Management declined to renew its contract -- will fight a Government Accountability Office ruling that could potentially strip USIS of a different, $210 million contract.

"USIS's professional services division won a contract with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to provide field office support services," Washington Technology reports. But GAO agreed with the incumbent contractor's assertion that "USIS shouldn't be considered a 'responsible contractor' because of a ongoing Justice Department investigation into fraud allegations."

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