From the White House to federal agencies to state and local government, chief data officers (CDOs) are in hot demand. And while new government CDOs put their best foot forward, they'll also need to address industry and public concern about government spying programs, privacy and security.

Among the key CDOs and chief data scientists (CDSs) worth watching:

Data Security and Privacy

Of course, government CDO positions will likely evolve just as quickly as they are filled. A case in point: Three months after the the U.S. State Department confirmed hackers breached its unclassified email system, the department still hasn't been able to remove the hackers from the system, according to today's edition of The Wall Street Journal.

The key takeaway: Together, chief information officers, data scientists and IT security professionals must more closely track and analyze data as it moves across networks -- especially as state-sponsored hacking incidents continue to rise.

But in some cases the security efforts can raise eyebrows -- especially as business leaders and the public express continued concerns about alleged NSA spying activities. Throughout most of 2014, most polls suggested that most Americans opposed the NSA program.

And just this week, Kaspersky Lab suggested that hackers tied to the NSA ran the most advanced hacking operation ever uncovered. The report came only one week after President Obama hosted a security summit -- trying to accelerate trusted information sharing between the government and industry leaders.

Starting with the Basics

Patil very briefly mentioned the security challenge in a blog about his new CDS role at the White House. He wrote in part, "[My] role as the U.S. CDS will be to responsibly source, process, and leverage data in a timely fashion to enable transparency, provide security, and foster innovation for the benefit of the American public, in order to maximize the nation’s return on its investment in data."

Digging a little deeper, Patil mentioned four specific goals:

1. Providing vision on how to provide maximum social return on federal data.

2. Creating nationwide data policies that enable shared services and forward-leaning practices to advance our nation's leadership in the data age.

3. Working with agencies to establish best practices for data management and ensure long-term sustainability of databases.

4. Recruiting and retaining the best minds in data science for public service to address these data science objectives and act as conduits among the government, academia and industry.

Patil isn't alone. More and more government CDOs and CDSs are trying to get their arms around public data. But in doing so, they'll need to strike a careful balance between information gathering, sharing, data privacy and security.

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