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Obama Official Brings Listening Tour to Silicon Valley

Commerce Department Secretary Penny Pritzker comes to Silicon Valley next week.

U.S. Department of Commerce

Commerce Department Secretary Penny Pritzker arrives in Silicon Valley Monday to make the rounds at Facebook and other tech firms as part of a broader Obama administration effort to enlist the tech community’s help in creating new jobs and gathering more support for issues like immigration reform.

On Monday, Pritzker will sit down for a Q&A with LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner for an invite-only Churchill Club event in Sunnyvale before heading off on a listening tour to other companies around town. She’s likely to get an earful about concerns on NSA spying, although Pritzker hasn’t engaged (publicly at least) on that one. which she has talked about a few times before.

She’s expected to announce a plan to open up more government data for public use, although it’s not clear yet what kind of information. The Commerce Department is made up of a confusing mix of agencies which didn’t fit anywhere else in the federal government so they all got dumped under the same umbrella.

But the agency does produce quite a bit of valuable data, including real-time National Weather Service information and frequent Census Bureau surveys, which are frequently used by app developers. Pritzker is expected to announce an expansion of data that they’ll make available for public use.

Although better known as a member of one of the wealthiest families in the U.S. or as an Obama fundraiser, Pritzker has been making an effort to improve the Commerce Department’s reputation as an agency that actually does something tangible for corporate America.

As part of that effort, the Commerce Department is launching a new effort today to reach out to the public using more social media through its new Office of Digital Engagement. Headed by Mike Kruger, a former House staffer who has been running the agency’s social media and blog operations for the past three years, the new office is supposed to beef up the Commerce Department’s efforts to reach business types using services they’re already on — such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

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