Protests from within the technology industry continue as hundreds of employees at Salesforce have requested that the company’s leadership reassess its work with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) following reports that authorities have separated thousands of children from their parents at the US-Mexico border.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff speaks during the 2014 DreamForce conference on 14 October 2014 in San Francisco, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty)
In a letter addressed to Marc Benioff, Salesforce’s co-founder and CEO, the employees argue that, by providing CBP with a number of its products, the company is potentially abandoning its core values and making employees “complicit in the inhumane treatment of vulnerable people”.
“We are particularly concerned about the use of Service Cloud to manage border activities,” the letter, sent to Benioff today, reads.
“Given the inhumane separation of children from their parents currently taking place at the border, we believe that our core value of Equality is at stake and that Salesforce should re-examine our contractual relationship with CBP and speak out against its practices.”
The letter from Salesforce employees is the latest form of internal pressure to arise within the ranks of technology company employees in recent months.
Outrage over the treatment of undocumented families who crossed the US southern border inspired workers at Microsoft to demand the company cancel its contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the US Department of Homeland Security’s law enforcement arm at the border.
Amazon workers likewise demanded last week that the company cease selling its face recognition product, Rekognition, to police departments and government agencies.
Earlier this year, Google employees began circulating a petition demanding the company cancel its contract for Project Maven, a US Department of Defence program that aimed to use artificial intelligence to analyse drone footage. Several employees also resigned over Google’s work with Maven. The company later vowed to not renew its Maven contract.
In a statement emailed to Gizmodo, a Salesforce spokesperson asserted that CBP is not using the company’s products to separate families.
“We believe every human life has equal value and every person must be treated with dignity and respect. We are not working with US Customs and Border Protection regarding the separation of families at the border,” the spokesperson said. “And we are not aware of any Salesforce services being used by CBP for this purpose.”
The spokesperson added that Salesforce is “proud of our employees for being passionate and vocal, and will continue the conversation on this and other important matters”.
Prior to widespread outrage over the separation of families at the US border, Salesforce touted its work with CBP, which began using the company’s Service Cloud product in March “to drive efficiencies around how US border activities are managed,” the company wrote in a press release.
CBP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Today, CBP leadership announced that the agency would “temporarily” suspend the criminal prosecution of parents who cross the US border with their children illegally. These prosecutions stemmed from the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration. A CBP spokesperson told the press it would refrain from these prosecutions until Congress finds “a lasting solution to family separations”.
Read the full Salesforce letter below:
It has come to our attention as Salesforce employees that our products and tools (Einstein Analytics, Analytics Cloud, Community Cloud, and Service Cloud) are being used by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to modernise its staff recruiting process, manage border activities, and engage with citizens.
We are particularly concerned about the use of Service Cloud to manage border activities. Given the inhumane separation of children from their parents currently taking place at the border, we believe that our core value of Equality is at stake and that Salesforce should re-examine our contractual relationship with CBP and speak out against its practices.
We cannot cede responsibility for the use of the technology we create — particularly when we have reason to believe that it is being used to aid practices so irreconcilable to our values. Those values often feel abstract, and it is easier to uphold them when they are not being tested. They are being tested now.
Many of us choose to work at Salesforce because of Salesforce’s reputation as a company that stands up against injustice. We agree that the business of business is to improve the state of the world. We want our work at Salesforce to have a positive impact on our friends and neighbours, not to make us complicit in the inhumane treatment of vulnerable people.
As members of the Salesforce Ohana, we believe that Salesforce must stand with the families facing irrevocable and unimaginable harm at the hands of CBP. We believe that the moral and ethical emergency that CBP’s practices have created and in which we have become complicit compel us as an Ohana and you as our CEO to take action by re-examining our contractual relationship with CBP and speaking out against its current practices.
We recognise the explicit policy of separating children at the border has been stopped, but that simply returns us to a status quo of detaining children with their parents at the border. 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.
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. We feel this is necessary to make good on our promise of being in the business of improving the world. Dismantling the structures of inequity is every bit as crucial as building foundations of care if those improvements are to last.
Additional reporting by Kate Conger.