Salesforce employees ask CEO to ‘re-examine’ contract with border protection agencyJune 26, 2018
Salesforce employees are the latest to push back against their employer’s contracts with US government agencies. In a letter to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, which was obtained by BuzzFeed News, employees ask that the company “re-examine” its relationship with Customs and Border Protection, which they say uses several of its cloud products. More than 650 people have reportedly signed on to the letter.
“We cannot cede responsibility for the use of the technology we create,” the letter reads, “particularly when we have reason to believe that it is being used to aid practices so irreconcilable to our values.”
The letter specifically calls out families being separated at the US-Mexico border. While that policy has ended, the letter says, that just means the US has returned to detaining families together. “We believe it is vital for Salesforce to stand up against both the practice that inspired this letter and any future attempts to merely make this destructive state of affairs more palatable.”
Salesforce has previously said it is “not aware” of any of its products being used by Customs and Border Protection toward the separation of families. Regarding the letter, a Salesforce spokesperson said in an emailed statement that one of the “greatest things” about the company is that employees can openly exchange their ideas. “We’re proud of our employees for being passionate and vocal, and will continue the conversation on this and other important matters,” the spokesperson said.
Employees of major tech companies have increasingly been pushing back against working with the US government toward war or law enforcement purposes in recent months. Last week, employees at both Microsoft and Amazon circulated letters criticizing their companies’ contracts with ICE; Amazon’s employees also called out their work on a facial recognition system for law enforcement.
In April, more than 3,000 Google employees signed onto a letter asking the company to end its involvement building AI meant to assist surveillance by drones. That led Google to announce internally that it plans to end its contract with the Department of Defense next year, while Google CEO Sundar Pichai later published a set of “principles” for its work on AI. It included a rule against developing AI weaponry.
Salesforce employees are taking a broader view here in pushing for change. They aren’t just asking to rework or revoke one contract, but for their company to be more mindful overall going forward. “We believe that we must craft a plan for examining the use of all our products, and the extent to which they are being used for harm,” the letter reads.
The series of letters comes at a time when it’s increasingly clear that the tech industry has created or enhanced major societal problems by failing to keep itself in check. Facebook, still reeling from the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, is the prime example of that right now, and employees of other tech giants are clearly starting to see the problems within their own companies, too.