Obama privacy plan has two audiences, and could fail both

If history and initial reaction are any gauge, privacy advancements will have to come from somewhere besides the Oval Office or Congress

Americans and Europeans will have a keen eye on President Obama's State of the Union address tonight, looking for cybersecurity privacy advancements that have been hard to come by since the president took office.

Obama previewed tonight's remarks last week, but there is not high hope that his proposed legislation will produce anything more than what has come since he took office in 2009, which is very little.

While many Americans are feeling privacy fatigue with information gathering and sharing over the past years, including the Snowden and NSA revelations, Europeans want to see a broad U.S privacy plan that dovetails with a U.S-EU trade deal called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told Politico, "An unannounced but intended audience for the administration's plan is to remove a serious obstacle to its plans for a U.S.-EU trade deal."

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During a 15-minute speech at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last week, Obama outlined a data breach notification law that has advantages for companies that share cybersecurity information, a revamped Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and a student privacy bill.

"This mission, protecting our information and privacy in the information age, this should not be a partisan issue," Obama said at the FTC. He hopes to play his proposals off devastating hacks over the past 12 months that hit the likes of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Target and Home Depot.

For the past six years, Congress has been Obama's nemesis and despite recent events that does not figure to change going forward.

Obama's proposals just don't present much new from his previous plans.

Mark Jaycox, legislative analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote in his blog with regards to a new federal data breach law that "many of these proposals are old ideas from the administration's May 2011 Cybersecurity legislative proposal and should be viewed skeptically."

In terms of information sharing, Jaycox said existing plans are robust but under-utilized and under-resourced. "While the administration's information sharing proposal may have better privacy protections than dangerously drafted bills like CISPA, we think the initial case for expanding information sharing requires much less secrecy about how intelligence and law enforcement agencies collect and use data on our networks," he wrote.

In regards to the Student Digital Privacy Act, many experts like Obama's plan but are skeptical it can pass Congress. Seventy-five companies including Microsoft and Apple have signed a privacy pledge to protect student information.

Fred Cate, a law professor at Indiana University and senior fellow at the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, told FedScoop that the issue should have bipartisan support -- but he questioned whether legislators could pass "anything with the president's fingerprints on it." He also feared the law would not be strong enough.

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