Customer data has never been more valuable. Companies that organize it are getting a second look. – Protocol

Adobe, Salesforce and Twilio all want in on the customer-data platform space after mobile privacy changes made it harder to gather third-party data. Is there more to CDPs this time around?
Customer-data platforms may be a hot new market.
In the wake of data privacy changes by mobile platforms last year, the enterprise tech world is suddenly very interested in customer-data platforms (CDPs). With Twilio’s acquisition of Segment, Treasure Data’s $234 million fundraise late last year and Salesforce’s push into CDPs, the hot new buzzword is potentially a hot new market.
“The way I think about [CDPs] is, it’s trying to create a 360-degree view of each of your customers to help you more accurately identify what would most resonate with this customer,” said Derek Zanutto, a general partner at CapitalG.
The term first started appearing in mainstream conversations back in 2017. In short, CDPs are centralized places to store all the first-party data a company collects from its customers.
“It’s fundamentally a data platform that unifies the data, and processes it, and then activates the profiles across many channels,” said Treasure Data CEO Kazuki Ohta. The key is not just collecting and storing that data, but making it available to use.

The need for CDPs first arose as companies realized they had this data but didn’t know what to do with it.
“What we’re seeing that a lot of brands do is effectively build a data lake or a master data management system, where there’s a lot of data coming together potentially,” said Ryan Fleisch, head of Product Marketing for Adobe’s CDP. “But where a lot of brands are looking for further partnership is: How do I make sense of that data, activate it and make a decision off of it?”
“The transformation of the data, the ability to personalize that customer information, I think is a key value prop of the customer data platform,” said Twilio Segment Vice President Jodi Alperstein. “And really knowing that 360 view of the customer and really being able to identify them, and then be able to put it into action.”
It’s also why CDPs are most commonly talked about in a marketing context, because it’s the most natural extension of using data about customers. After Apple and Google restricted the use of third-party cookies in apps and on the web, marketers needed to find new sources of customer information.
“It’s taking pieces of different marketing technology [and putting] them together so that as the consumer record exists in all those different systems, whether that’s a cookie, a CRM record, an email, whatever it is, we can actually create one profile of that person and then use it more effectively in different marketing,” said Cory Munchbach, COO at BlueConic.
Still, the applicability of CDPs extend far beyond just marketing, into sales, service and any other areas of an enterprise that could benefit from a more complete customer view. “I absolutely think it’s critical to extend beyond that,” said Bobby Jania, senior vice president of Marketing at Salesforce. “We’re uniting marketing with commerce, with service, with sales, with IT. And that really gives our customers, the brands, a 360-degree view of their end customers.”
CDP vendors include companies such as Segment, Amperity, mParticle and Treasure Data, as well as smaller companies like Lytics and BlueConic. Outside of the focused CDP players, marketing cloud vendors like Salesforce and Adobe can’t afford to ignore this trend. and ERP players like Microsoft and Oracle want to extend customer data into purchasing, products and supply chain software.

That ability to determine and personalize customer interactions across an enterprise is what makes the idea of a CDP so tantalizing. “I do think the vision of the CDP is incredible: Who wouldn’t want that, right? Who wouldn’t want to have this rich view of every customer so they can better service that customer, leveraging all the data they have at their fingertips?” said Zanutto.
The challenge is that vision hasn’t always materialized. Early attempts at CDPs led to a few false starts and some disillusioned customers, and the appetite for CDPs almost threatened to fizzle out.
“We were hearing a lot about CDP probably two and a half years ago,” said Valoir principal Rebecca Wettemann. “And then things sort of went quiet.”
Part of that silence was due to the lack of big successes in the industry. “If you roll the clock back two or three years ago, there’s a lot of buzz around CDPs, and how it’s played out has sort of underwhelmed a lot of folks in the industry, at least on the investment side of things,” said Zanutto. Investor enthusiasm has since dimmed. Back then, “the level of enthusiasm would have been a 10 out of 10, and now it’s probably much less than a 10 out of 10, because there hasn’t been a number of big breakouts,” he said.
“Have I seen any kind of large-scale deployment of a CDP where it works as advertised? No.”
But what prevented CDPs from having their breakout moment three years ago? A combination of over-promising and under-delivering, and bad market timing, according to industry practitioners and investors.
“One of the ways that this category has been very bizarre is massive adoption at a messaging level,” but not as much at the practical level, said Munchbach. The pain points CDPs are trying to solve are very legitimate, which is why a lot of vendors want a piece of the pie, she said, but then “there’s this real fall-off between saying you can do it and then actually doing it.”

“Have I seen any kind of large-scale deployment of a CDP where it works as advertised? No,” said Wettemann.

The fault doesn’t entirely lie with CDP vendors, however. Until recently, most organizations didn’t have a mature enough data strategy to get the full value of a CDP. “I think the things that held back the CDP area in the past from having more explosive growth were the fact that it did take a lot of time to set them up and get value out of them because you had to set up a completely new system within your environment to collect and examine data feeds off of customers,” said Zanutto.
Munchbach said she’s never seen a customer example where there wasn’t some sort of data surprise. “There’s such an under-estimating of the readiness that they have on the data side of things,” she said.
And as CapitalG and other investors talked to customers, many of them were “disillusioned or dissatisfied” because they’d done all this work to get their data together, but weren’t as ready as they thought. And “when they go to actually use the data in CDP, they realize there’s still a big gap and they’re not really getting the value they were hoping for,” said Zanutto.
When it comes to getting value out of a CDP, Twilio Segment’s Alperstein admitted that “there’s a value curve for sure,” and that some customers are getting less out of their CDPs than others. But that doesn’t mean all is lost. “I don’t think there’s anybody using the product who isn’t getting some real value from it,” she said.
CDPs may have struck out the first time around, but it’s not over yet. Since 2017, the enterprise tech world has shifted dramatically: The pandemic accelerated the need for digital transformation; regulatory changes and mobile platforms forced a shift toward first-party data; and more options arose for companies looking to outsource complex data operations.

At Segment, demand exploded during the pandemic as enterprises were racing to service their customers digitally, said Segment product marketing Vice President Katrina Wong. And “when you think about the digital footprint, understanding your customers, connecting online … that’s what a CDP helps to do, in a nutshell.”
Consumer protection laws such as GDPR or CCPA, along with the decline in third-party cookies, have also made a first-party data strategy not just competitive but necessary for survival. “If you believe consumer behavior is becoming digital and that consumer privacy is becoming stricter, then CDPs will be required in most of the brands and businesses,” said Treasure Data’s Ohta.
Those regulatory changes, combined with the option of outsourcing complex data operations to companies like Databricks or Snowflake, have pushed companies to be more data-ready this time around.
“What could be different this time around is more enterprises are data-ready than they have been in the past,” said Zanutto. “That’s sort of a secular trend, as more people invest in their data stack and into the data warehouses and data lakes.”
All of those forces combined have brought CDPs to the surface again and spurred more competition than ever.
“It’s just a matter of when, not if,” said Zanutto. In the enterprise tech market, timing is everything, he explained, and coming to market too late or too early can actually be detrimental. “I think there’s a lot of good reasons why now is different, it’s heading in that direction. But is it going to be a year to greatness, or five years to greatness? That’s a really hard question to know.”
Are you keeping up with the latest cloud developments? Get the Enterprise team’s newsletter every Monday and Thursday.

Your information will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy
Thank you for signing up. Please check your inbox to verify your email.

Sorry, something went wrong. Please try again.
A login link has been emailed to you – please check your inbox.
Aisha Counts (@aishacounts) is a reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software. Formerly, she was a management consultant for EY. She’s based in Los Angeles and can be reached at
The company has in the past explored the idea of glasses-free AR.
Amazon is looking to hire computer vision scientists, designers, program managers, product managers and more.
Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety’s first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.
Add Amazon to the long list of companies looking to build a more immersive future: The ecommerce giant has been looking to hire a number of people for an unannounced AR/VR product in recent months. Among the roles Amazon is looking to fill are a wide variety of senior positions for computer vision scientists, designers, program managers, product managers, researchers and technologists, suggesting that the company is looking to build out a substantive team.
“You will develop an advanced XR research concept into a magical and useful new-to-world consumer product,” one of the job listings reads, using the industry shorthand for extended reality, which can encompass both AR and VR. Another job listing describes the initiative related to “XR/AR devices,” and states that eventual hires will be part of “a greenfield development effort” that will include “developing code for early prototypes through mass production.”
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon is looking to hire a UX designer to work on “the core system interface along with end-user applications spanning from multi-modal interfaces to 3D AR entertainment experiences,” and suggest that applicants should have the ability to “think spatially, with 3D design experience in motion design, animation [and] AR/VR, games,” among other things. Applicants for a senior product manager position are told they should have “experience building deeply technical products, e.g. AI/ML, robotics, games.”
Unlike many of its industry compatriots, Amazon has been largely on the sidelines when it comes to AR and VR hardware. Google, Meta, Microsoft and Snap all have had a variety of devices in the market at one time or another, and Apple’s plans to develop its own AR glasses have been an open secret for some time.
AR glasses drawing From a patent filed by Amazon in 2013.Image: Amazon
Amazon does have its own smart glasses, dubbed Echo Frames, but that product does not currently have a visual component. The company did file for some patents for entertainment-focused video glasses almost a decade ago, but there’s no indication these efforts were pursued much further.

Interestingly, a number of the job listings describe the project as related to a “magical and useful, new-to-world XR consumer product,” suggesting it may be looking to establish a new product category. Others even describe it as a “a new-to-world smart-home product.”

From a patent filed by Amazon in 2012.Image: Amazon
Companies do frequently use boilerplate language in their job listings that gets only minimally tweaked for new roles, and at times purposely obfuscate their intentions behind overly broad language. However, Amazon did at one point pursue the idea of glasses-free AR based on devices that were to include both projectors as well as cameras and other sensors.

The company did file a number of patents related to this technology around a decade ago, with some of those filings depicting ceiling-mounted projectors capable of projecting images on tables, walls and other surfaces. A source familiar with those efforts told Protocol that they didn’t progress past the concept stage at the time, in part due to challenges with projection technologies.

Amazon did recently dive back into projection mapping with the Glow, which is billed as an interactive video chatting device for children. The company has more recently doubled down on exploring far-out ideas for future hardware products.
In March, it launched a new internal Futures Design group dedicated to “helping Amazon experience what it’s like to live in the future, today.” The group is being led by Kharis O’Connell, who previously worked as a designer for AR headset maker Meta View. More recently, O’Connell helped Google design its AR operating system.
Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety’s first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.
The last two years have seen more change than the prior 20, but change will keep coming, quickly. In this third of three articles, we look at how to keep on top of the changing work world.
Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance technology and culture journalist and author of “YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars.” His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Wired.
This is part three of a three-part series exploring the experience of frontline workers and new workplace tools being deployed to support them.
Changes born out of a crisis have upended every single workplace in the last two years. The old rulebook has been torn up, and new rules were written about how to communicate with and keep employees happy. Investing in effective communications technology has become core to that new world of work.
Three in four frontline workers believe good technology that keeps them in touch with their higher-ups is a must-have for any good business. And in turn, managers are recognizing the need for change. 94% feel they have to prioritize upgrading and changing their frontline technology to stay up to speed with the rapidly changing workplace.
“Are you offering them the ability to provide their feedback, and their input, and be a part of the products or solutions that you’re building? Will you recognize them?”

It’s a concern that’s well-known to many. Workplace, a business communication tool from Meta, recently commissioned research to try to understand the changing relationship between frontline staff and their back-office bosses. “What we’ve found is that there’s a critical gap in communications [that] frontline workers, and particularly frontline managers, waste on average 387 hours a year,” said Abby Guthkelch, Head of Global Executive Solutions at Workplace. “That’s equivalent to 9.3 working weeks on this disconnect, this lack of ability to get in touch with and connected with head office.”
Workplace Tech – The Future of the Frontline
Tackling that gap is something organizations need to do now to stay competitive and not fall behind.
Four in five managers feel frontline employees’ experiences are shaped by how good their interaction with technology is. And that number is likely to increase as tech is woven further into the workplace, keeping us all connected. Half of U.S. workers would leave their job if the frustration of getting their workplace technology to work got too difficult, according to Workfront. One-third of workers already have.
That’s bad news for some businesses, but good news for those that are preparing to future-proof themselves, and offering the technology and support that frontline workers crave so much after the last two years of stresses and strains in their place of work. “It’s a really poignant question right now: how to attract talent,” said Christine Trodella, head of Workplace from Meta. “It’s one of the biggest challenges that all companies and all industries are facing. We’ve seen a real dramatic shift in the values of the employee population as those demographics change.”
That means clear lines of communication, enabled by the clever use of technology. It also means deploying tech at certain moments to improve performance at work — a survey by Meta found that 53% of frontline workers believed technology that could monitor things like sales goals and that customer service ratings could help improve their performance at work, making them more productive and enabling them to feel better about the difference they’re making to their business.

It’s all brokered by technology, which is why investing in and bringing to bear the best use of such tech is a crucial component of building the business of the future. “Are you offering the flexibility that they’re looking for?” asked Trodella. “Are you offering them the ability to provide their feedback, and their input, and be a part of the products or solutions that you’re building? Will you recognize them? Will they be able to have access to leadership in a way that is constructive and productive?” All are key questions that current employees will be asking their bosses in the workplace of the future, and are ones that prospective employees will ask potential employers before signing on the dotted line.
Such changes shouldn’t occur in a vacuum, however — and just because an executive in the C-suite thinks it should happen doesn’t mean it should. Before investing large amounts of money overhauling your business practices to make them more future-focused and integrating smart new technology to help open up lines of connection between the front line and the C-suite, make sure to talk to those for whom any change will be felt the most.
“Talk to your people,” said Guthkelch. “It’s as straightforward as that. Don’t try to second-guess what they want, unless you are actually doing the job yourself. Ask them what they want. Ask them what’s going to make their work better. What’s going to enable them to feel more connected to the organization, which is going to enable them to do their job most effectively.”
There will likely be a long list of complaints and concerns, and niggling issues that ought to be tackled. Developing a future-proofed workplace isn’t easy, after all. But thinking calmly and clearly about which issues to tackle — and in what order — can reap benefits. “Look at your processes, look at your technology stacks and understand where you have gaps,” advised Guthkelch. “Then from that, look at where you can make some quick wins that will be most impactful for not only you as leadership, but more specifically for your people that is going to really enable them to turn up, to work and to thrive in the role that they’re doing.”

Read the series:
Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance technology and culture journalist and author of “YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars.” His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Wired.
While the U.S. waits for a federal framework on crypto regulation, states are taking charge, Coinbase’s head of State and Local Public Policy David London says.
“I think it’s good that states are taking charge.”
President Biden’s executive order on crypto punted the issue to agencies for further study. The SEC and CFTC are battling over regulatory turf. David London, Coinbase’s head of State and Local Public Policy, thinks that states aren’t going to wait for a federal framework.
Several states and cities have already put some kind of crypto regulation in place, and others are planning to. There’s New York’s expensive, restrictive BitLicense, Wyoming’s crypto-friendly laws and Miami’s proposal to pay city workers in bitcoin.
London elaborated on his experience working through multiple eras of the web to eventually land at Coinbase, the shape of the local regulatory landscape for crypto and what Biden’s executive order could mean for state legislation in an interview with Protocol.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Can you talk a little bit about your prior experience before joining Coinbase, and why you chose to go into policy within tech companies?

I started in public policy in tech in the early 2000s. So literally, I’ve seen Web 1.0, to 2.0, to 3. I started my career at Cisco Systems and what motivated me getting into tech policy is when during the dot-com era everything was really hot in Silicon Valley. I was working in Maryland for a legislator, and I told him, “Boss, I love you. But I’m moving out to Silicon Valley.”
After that, I headed over to eBay and PayPal, and eventually managed all of eBay’s and PayPal’s state and local programs across the country. From there, I joined a couple more 2.0 companies, specifically a startup called Ofo, which was in the dockless bike-share space, after I left eBay. Most recently, I was at DoorDash where I headed up U.S. East and Canada, and also started its federal program as well.
So I’ve always been interested in fast-growing companies and companies that were sort of cutting edge, which brings me to my current position with Coinbase. So going from 1.0 to 3, this was like the best match for me moving forward. And I think the things that we’re doing, and working with policymakers, I think it’s going to be really life-changing, not just here in the U.S. but across the world.
What made you jump into the crypto industry from DoorDash?
There’s the opportunity to really do economic empowerment. When I was first researching Coinbase, in the crypto space, maybe about six or seven months ago, I was really intrigued with the opportunities that lie before this industry, specifically around economic empowerment, by allowing individuals to be more empowered for themselves and for their communities, lifting up all boats.
So if you’re thinking about something as simple as remittances, if you have relatives abroad, can crypto be that sort of new phase for you to get money to your relatives? Similarly, here, getting access to credit, getting access to capital, for some of the communities in the United States, I see crypto as also being one of those potential avenues for them as well.

It’s a lot of green space, which was really cool with DoorDash, we were doing some really cool stuff trying to educate policymakers. But after [California’s Prop. 22 was] out there, people’s minds were kind of already made up about the industry. What I love here, people are so open-minded at this point, a lot of policymakers want to figure out what it is. What is this crypto thing? What is this blockchain thing? They’re coming to us to educate them and trade ideas, so that’s what’s really exciting about this, is there’s so much green space to work with policymakers across the country.
With DoorDash and the gig economy, labor is more regulated on the state and local levels. With crypto so far, federal legislation has taken the spotlight. What are your thoughts on the importance of state legislation within the crypto space right now?
I mean, we would love to have a solid federal framework that harmonizes, that’s consistent and that makes sense for the industry moving forward.
But in lieu of that, what we have seen is that states are just going to do their own thing, and not just states, but also localities. We’re literally tracking legislation all across the country, and seeing that states are putting policy proposals forward, in lieu of federal action.
So I think it’s good that states are taking charge. What I really like and what I’ve seen from a lot of states is that they’re really doing it in a very methodical way. That they’re looking at the industry, they’re looking at: How can crypto benefit their communities? What are some of the safeguards that they need to put up for their constituents? What are some of the things that the industry is looking for? And can industry be a partner with them?
So I think what I’ve liked, in my short time here, is that I’ve seen policymakers proactively come to us and ask me, “Hey, what is crypto? How do we get behind this? How do we protect our consumers? How do we make sure that the individuals that use it are successful?”

New York has its coveted BitLicense, and certain states are friendlier than others towards crypto. How do you think that affects the crypto industry and how Coinbase operates?
We’re regulated, and we have money transmitter licenses in over 40 states in the United States. So we move forward to the states that we operate in, which is most of the states based upon that. And we’re able to understand what the laws are, we work with our regulatory team in getting a good sense of sort of what is the regulatory landscape in an individual state, and we engage at that point. We have very close relationships with regulators in the states that we operate in.
Now, obviously, having multiple states with different licenses, one size doesn’t fit all for every state, but one of the things that we have seen is most of them are pretty consistent, generally speaking. What we really love is that the regulators are really good to work with and we have good opportunities to engage with them.
Do you have any thoughts on Biden’s executive order and how that might impact state legislation with a more federal framework down the line?
I think the executive order is, as we always have to remember, it’s the first step in a much larger process. We applaud the administration for leaning into the issue and, and wanting to bring in industry and to go through the process and see what makes sense from a federal perspective on regulation of our industry.
But in lieu of that, as I mentioned before, the states aren’t waiting. It wouldn’t surprise me if you start seeing more states introduce things themselves to lean more into crypto in the coming months and years. So I think that’s really positive.
There’s also tons of smaller cities that are looking to get into the crypto space. And so I think these are like incubators of innovation across the country.
Also, it’s not like a red issue or a blue issue. A lot of times in our industry, people line up on one side of the aisle or the other side of the aisle. What I really love about this industry is it’s really bipartisan; we have folks on both sides of the aisle, whether they be far to the left or far to the right, and tons in the middle, that like crypto and want to understand what it is and the benefits of it for their community.

Virtual school software startup Classroom Technologies will test the controversial “emotion AI” technology.
The system can detect whether students are bored, distracted or confused.
Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of and is the author of “Campaign ’08: A Turning Point for Digital Media,” a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.
When college instructor Angela Dancey wants to decipher whether her first-year English students comprehend what she’s trying to get across in class, their facial expressions and body language don’t reveal much.
“Even in an in-person class, students can be difficult to read. Typically, undergraduates don’t communicate much through their faces, especially a lack of understanding,” said Dancey, a senior lecturer at the University of Illinois Chicago.
Dancey uses tried-and-true methods such as asking students to identify their “muddiest point” — a concept or idea she said students still struggle with — following a lecture or discussion. “I ask them to write it down, share it and we address it as a class for everyone’s benefit,” she said.
But Intel and Classroom Technologies, which sells virtual school software called Class, think there might be a better way. The companies have partnered to integrate an AI-based technology developed by Intel with Class, which runs on top of Zoom. Intel claims its system can detect whether students are bored, distracted or confused by assessing their facial expressions and how they’re interacting with educational content.

“We can give the teacher additional insights to allow them to better communicate,” said Michael Chasen, co-founder and CEO of Classroom Technologies, who said teachers have had trouble engaging with students in virtual classroom environments throughout the pandemic.
His company plans to test Intel’s student engagement analytics technology, which captures images of students’ faces with a computer camera and computer vision technology and combines it with contextual information about what a student is working on at that moment to assess a student’s state of understanding. Intel hopes to transform the technology into a product it can distribute more broadly, said Sinem Aslan, a research scientist at Intel, who helped develop the technology.
“We are trying to enable one-on-one tutoring at scale,” said Aslan, adding that the system is intended to help teachers recognize when students need help and to inform how they might alter educational materials based on how students interact with the educational content. “High levels of boredom will lead [students to] completely zone out of educational content,” said Aslan.
But critics argue that it is not possible to accurately determine whether someone is feeling bored, confused, happy or sad based on their facial expressions or other external signals.
Some researchers have found that because people express themselves through tens or hundreds of subtle and complex facial expressions, bodily gestures or physiological signals, categorizing their state with a single label is an ill-suited approach. Other research indicates that people communicate emotions such as anger, fear and surprise in ways that vary across cultures and situations, and how they express emotion can fluctuate on an individual level.
“Students have different ways of presenting what’s going on inside of them,” said Todd Richmond, a longtime educator and the director of the Tech and Narrative Lab and a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. “That student being distracted at that moment in time may be the appropriate and necessary state for them in that moment in their life,” he said, if they’re dealing with personal issues, for example.

The classroom is just one arena where controversial “emotion AI” is finding its way into everyday tech products and generating investor interest. It’s also seeping into delivery and passenger vehicles and virtual sales and customer service software. After Protocol’s report last week on the use of this technology on sales calls, Fight for the Future launched a campaign urging Zoom not to adopt the technology in its near-ubiquitous video-conferencing software.
At this early stage, it’s not clear how Intel’s technology will be integrated with the Class software, said Chasen, who said he expects the company will partner with one of the colleges it already works with to evaluate the Intel system. Chasen told Protocol that Classroom Technologies is not paying Intel to test the technology. Class is backed by investors including NFL quarterback Tom Brady, AOL co-founder Steve Case and Salesforce Ventures.
Intel has established partnerships to help distribute other nascent forms of AI it has built. For example, in the hopes of productizing a system that turns data visualizing joints and skeletal movements into analytics to monitor and improve athletic performance, the company has partnered with Purdue University and soccer scouting app AiScout.

and advocacy groups have raised alarms regarding excessive student surveillance and privacy invasions associated with facial recognition deployed in schools for identification and security purposes. Those concerns have accelerated as AI-based software has been used more often than ever during the pandemic, including technologies that monitor student behavior in the hopes of preventing cheating during virtual testing and systems that track content that students view on their laptops in an effort to detect whether they are at risk of self-harm.
Class already tracks how often students raise their hands during a session, and offers a “proctor view” feature that lets teachers monitor what students are viewing on their computers if the students agree to share their desktop screen with instructors.
“I think we have to be very sensitive about people’s personal rights and not being overly intrusive with these systems,” said Chasen.

As virtual class became the norm in the past couple years, a debate emerged among educators over whether or not to require students to turn on their cameras during class. Today in Dancey’s English program, cameras are optional, in part because in virtual settings students can communicate with instructors through their microphones or via chat.
But in order to capture students’ facial expressions, Intel’s technology would need those cameras turned on.

“The thing about turning cameras on, it became almost like a social-justice issue,” Dancey said. Not only are some students concerned about others seeing where or how they live, but enabling the cameras drains power, which can be a problem for students using a mobile hotspot to connect for class, she said.
“It’s kind of an invasion of privacy, and there are accessibility issues, because having your camera on uses up a huge amount of bandwidth. That could literally be costing them money to do that,” Dancey said.
We don’t want this technology to be a surveillance system.
“Students shouldn’t have to police how they look in the classroom,” said Nandita Sampath, a policy analyst with Consumer Reports focused on algorithmic bias and accountability issues, who said she wondered whether students would have the ability to contest inaccurate results if Intel’s system leads to negative consequences. “What cognitive and emotional states do these companies claim they are able to assess or predict, and what is the accountability?” she said.
Aslan said the goal of Intel’s technology is not to surveil or penalize students, but rather to coach teachers and provide additional information so they can better understand when students need help. “We did not start this technology as a surveillance system. In fact, we don’t want this technology to be a surveillance system,” Aslan said.

Sampath said Intel’s technology could be used to judge or penalize students even if that is not the intent. “Maybe they might not intend for this to be the ultimate decision-maker, but this doesn’t mean the teacher or administrator can’t use it in that way,” she said.
Dancey said teachers worry about surveillance being used against them, too. “Often surveillance is used against instructors really unfairly,” she said. “I don’t think it would be paranoid to say, especially if it’s going to measure ‘student engagement’ — TM, in quotes — that If I go up for promotion or tenure, is that going to be part of my evaluation? Could they say, ‘So-and-so had a low comprehension quotient?’”

When Intel tested the system in a physical classroom setting, some teachers who participated in the study suggested it provided useful information. “I was able to witness how I could catch some emotional challenges of the students that I could not have anticipated [before],” said one teacher, according to a document provided by Intel.

But while some teachers may have found it helpful, Dancey said she would not want to use the Intel system. “I think most teachers, especially at the university level, would find this technology morally reprehensible, like the panopticon. Frankly, if my institution offered it to me, I would reject it, and if we were required to use it, I would think twice about continuing to work here,” she said.
At this early stage, Intel aims to find the best ways to implement the technology so it is most useful for teachers, Aslan said: “How do we make it in a way that it is aligned with what the teacher does on a daily basis?”
I think most teachers, especially at the university level, would find this technology morally reprehensible.
Intel developed its adaptive learning analytics system by incorporating data gathered from students in real-life classroom sessions using laptops with 3D cameras. To label the ground truth data used to train its algorithmic models, the researchers hired psychologists who viewed videos of the students and categorized the emotions they detected in their expressions.
“We don’t want to start with any assumptions. That’s why we hired the subject matter experts to label the data,” said Nese Alyuz Civitci, a machine-learning researcher at Intel. The researchers only used data when at least two of three labelers agreed how a student’s expressions should be categorized.

“It was really interesting to see those emotions — the states are really subtle, they are really tiny differences,” Civitci said. “It was really hard for me to identify those differences.”
Rather than assessing Intel’s AI models on whether they accurately reflected the actual emotions of students, the researchers “positioned it as how instrumental or how much a teacher can trust the models,” Aslan said.
“I don’t think it’s tech that’s fully reached its maturity yet,” Chasen said regarding Intel’s system. “We need to see if the results are relevant to the performance of the students and see if we can’t get useful data for the instructors out of it. This is what we’re testing to find out.”
Ultimately, he said the Intel system will provide one piece of data that Classroom Technologies and its customers will combine with other signals to form a holistic assessment of students.
“There’s never one piece of data,” he said. He also suggested that the information revealed by the Intel technology should not be used on its own without context to judge a student’s performance, such as, “if the AI says they’re not paying attention and they have all straight As.”
Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of and is the author of “Campaign ’08: A Turning Point for Digital Media,” a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.
As states have hit the gas on privacy laws in the last year, industry is winning more concessions — and consumer groups are sounding the alarm.
Critics say that each insufficient privacy bill that passes lowers the bar even more for what comes after — including possibly a national approach.
Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.
One morning back in February, Utah state Sen. Kirk Cullimore introduced an updated version of the bill that would soon become the state’s digital privacy law. His measure would be simpler for consumers and less burdensome for business than the California rules that have come to define state privacy in the U.S., the Republican told his fellow members of the tax committee.
Then Cullimore turned the session over to a lawyer from an obscure but powerful industry-backed lobbying group, explaining that the group had helped write the bill and could explain its merits.
“I really want to be upfront about this and my hope that a Utah model could be copied in other states,” Anton van Seventer, of the State Privacy and Security Coalition, told the legislators. “It could serve as the most updated and streamlined model for state privacy legislation in the U.S. today.”
California’s privacy bill, which passed in 2018, was a blow by consumer advocates against tech companies. Because of the state’s size and first-mover advantage, it helped establish what the advocates hoped would be the beginning of a national standard creating consumer protections — even as companies grumbled it overreached and was confusing.

In the last year, however, three more states have passed privacy bills, often with more input from industry, especially from the SPSC and its members, than California took. As a result, consumer groups and even Apple, a former member of the group, have begun ringing alarms. The critics say the new wave of bills has watered down user protections against targeted advertising or incorrect data, and that each insufficient bill that passes lowers the bar even more for what comes after — including possibly a national approach.
The process of undermining California’s comparatively robust protections got a boost last year in Virginia. As legislators in the commonwealth were getting ready to pass the nation’s second online privacy law, some were clear that it was not nearly the attack on tech’s business models that California’s had been. State Sen. David Marsden, a Democrat who introduced the bill, told Protocol during the deliberations that Amazon provided “the first cut of a draft to look at.” He also suggested that business interests from an array of sectors determined the “focus” of the bill, which took inspiration from Washington state’s failed efforts to pass a law, not California’s successes.
The result was a law that covered fewer uses of data by fewer businesses than California’s, though it also broadened some consumer rights over sensitive data and required GDPR-like assessments of certain high-risk processing. It was enough to garner praise from some consumer advocates, while raising muted concerns.
It’s not clear how central the SPSC was to the creation of the Virginia law, but Jim Halpert, a prominent Washington lawyer who represented the group until recently, was a member of a commission to advise the state on how to implement the law. Amazon also appears to have been a member of the group.
It’s not just Virginia: Figuring out exactly which companies SPSC represents and how it operates is tough. The group has little web presence, but a letter it sent to Pennsylvania state lawmakers about a data breach notification bill in 2020 listed several members including Apple, AT&T, Comcast, Facebook (now Meta), Google and Verizon. It also counted some financial companies like Visa, Mastercard and SoftBank among its membership at the time.

An updated list reviewed by Protocol finds the SPSC added health insurer Humana to its roster since 2020. But earlier this month Apple, which has driven Meta nuts by giving users more controls over targeted advertising, confirmed it had left the group over concerns that SPSC’s work is watering down protections for consumers.
And the SPSC’s work on state privacy has been prolific. In addition to SPSC’s presence in Virginia and Utah, the group sent Halpert, who has since left his firm to join the White House’s Office of the National Cyber Director, to speak for industry about a privacy proposal in New York in 2019. The group has disclosed lobbying in Washington state while registering to lobby, without necessarily disclosing much activity, in other states such as Tennessee and Iowa.
In Kentucky, Republican state Sen. Whitney Westerfield, who since January has led an effort to pass a consumer-friendly privacy bill, said the SPSC was “far and away” the most active industry group opposing it. The SPSC was also behind another state lawmaker’s bill, Westerfield said. That proposal was extremely similar to Virginia’s privacy law — and the SPSC boosted that bill “without so much as spitting in my direction,” he added.
“That happens, but I think it was classless not to communicate with me,” Westerfield said.
Westerfield and others suggested the introduction of the alternate bill in Kentucky appears to be part of a steady goalpost-moving project by the SPSC. The group would later tell Utah lawmakers their bill, which consumer advocates say is now the weakest state statute on the books, should become a nationwide model. But, Westerfield said, back before Utah’s bill had come into focus, the message from the SPSC to him was that any state privacy law should be less onerous than Virginia’s.

“I was frustrated with the coalition,” he said. “They had their eyes set, their minds set, at least in communicating with me, that Virginia was the model to have.”
Although the group is definitely active at the state level, it seems also to have its sights set higher. Halpert’s former law firm, DLA Piper, boasts on his profile that, as part of “a coalition of Fortune 500 companies, he has helped to draft more than a hundred US state privacy, data security, security breach notification laws, and consumer protection laws.” Similarly, the bio for Andy Kingman, another DLA Piper lawyer who works with the group, says the SPSC is “at the forefront of the policy arena in all 50 states.” The group spent more than $1.4 million on services through DLA Piper in 2020, according to tax filings.
The SPSC said in a statement it “supports efforts to give consumers greater transparency and control over their data” and “provides substantive expertise to state policymakers, including context on the operational implications of policy proposals.” Like many other industry groups, it has also called for a federal privacy law.
However, the rapid advance of state privacy statutes is changing the national conversation around consumer data protection. As privacy bills ricochet from state to state, each new one seems to be narrower in scope than the one before, widening exemptions and blunting enforcement mechanisms for protecting consumers.
When Utah passed its bill, for instance, a coalition of consumer groups began warning that exemptions in the ban on targeted advertising would actually allow Google or Meta to continue sharing data in-house for that exact purpose. The same opponents also worried consumers didn’t have any right to correct their data, and decried the bill’s “right to cure” provision, which gives business space to fix any lapses if they’re notified about them.
“I’m not sure a lot of other laws that you’re allowed to violate until someone tells you to stop, but it’s definitely been a constant refrain from industry,” said Justin Brookman, director of Consumer Privacy and Technology Policy for Consumer Reports, which has been advocating in several states to counter industry lobbying.

Some of the provisions that most concern consumer advocates have also popped up in other states looking into privacy laws, including Iowa and Ohio.
The spread of course is not all necessarily the work of the SPSC. The larger political picture definitely plays a role, as leaders in red states are generally less interested in putting regulations on businesses. For instance, Cullimore, the Utah senator who brought in the group to explain the bill to lawmakers, noted several prior failures and said his measure could not have passed if it included more consumer-friendly language.
Retail and other industries have also taken a keen interest in privacy issues, and even other tech groups have shown up. TechNet — a lobbying group with members in cloud services, social media, telecom and more — touts its ability to track state-by-state issues, and appears to have done privacy-related work in Kentucky, New York, Iowa and others, and has celebrated Utah’s new privacy law.
Such activity — by the SPSC, TechNet and others — seems at times to conflict with business and trade group assertions that they want Congress to enact one nationwide privacy law, and that they fear having to navigate an inconsistent regulatory patchwork across different states.
Carl Holshouser, TechNet’s senior vice president for Operations and Strategic Initiatives, told Protocol that the group’s top priority is a federal bill. “While we wait for Washington to make progress on a federal law, TechNet will continue to urge state lawmakers debating privacy legislation to consider interoperability with existing laws and minimize the compliance costs and consumer confusion created by a state-by-state patchwork,” he said.
Consumer groups say, though, that companies’ efforts to shape more recent state laws will isolate California’s protections to its state residents alone while lowering the bar for what businesses have to offer consumers elsewhere.
“It’s kind of terrifying about how bad it could get,” said Maureen Mahoney, a senior policy analyst at Consumer Reports who has addressed several state legislatures that are working on privacy. “Is it just going to get even worse and worse — industry having complete control over what these laws look like?”

The SPSC has made clear its long-term influence over state laws is the point. In fact, when van Seventer was introducing new bill text in Utah, he didn’t stop at suggesting it could be a model for other states.
“If we get this rolling,” he said, “it could even serve as the model for eventual federal legislation in this area when that’s taken up by the U.S. Congress.”
Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.
To give you the best possible experience, this site uses cookies. If you continue browsing. you accept our use of cookies. You can review our privacy policy to find out more about the cookies we use.



More Posts

Market Research

Pulse Surveys

Turn feedback into action

Our survey platform makes it easy to measure and understand feedback so you can drive growth and innovation

Pulse Handshak

Pulse Handshak

Collaborative online survey tool for the market research industry. Remote assisted surveying just like face-to-face interviews. Here interviewers can talk to the respondent over the web-console without the need for any other communication channel and share the same Q're with responses and click actions.

Pulse FE

Pulse FE

Pulse Field Expert or Pulse FE is the main platform for both offline and online survey at It is robust and used by hundreds of clients over tens of years with millions of responses. Do it once Q're and deploy on both offline devices (android) and online forms makes it a great cost effective platform for any kind of responses

Pulse Ultimate

Pulse Ultimate

Pulse Ultimate is targeted for tracking studies and retail audits. An offline survey system offering extreme field control including processes like data quality check, back-check, rework, comparison with previous wave data etc. helps to get the best results on a day-to-day basis

Pulse LS

Pulse LS

Use a managed Limesurvey and our expertise for creating complex forms and token based user management. Use optional mailing system to send survey invitation to each participant and track progress of the response status. Industry standard SPSS / R output supported