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Protocol | Enterprise

Salesforce is giving ethics a bigger role in product design

The Office of Ethical and Humane Use of Technology, which previously sat in the Office of Equality, will now sit within Salesforce's product organization, per a spokesperson.

Salesforce logo

Salesforce's Office of Humane and Ethical Use no longer sits within the Office of Equality.

Photo: Stephen Lam/Getty Images

Salesforce has reorganized its Office of Ethical and Humane Use of Technology, Protocol has learned, a move that suggests the company wants to empower the unit to have greater influence in the design of new products.

The office, which was created in 2018, is tasked with ensuring that Salesforce's technology is developed and used in a responsible manner. It's an increasing focus for organizations that are trying to side-step public backlash. But it's also an acknowledgement that the rise of advanced tech like AI, as well as engagement with certain customers, warrants a more robust system of checks and balances. Salesforce, for example, has faced pressure over the work it does with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Protesters even crashed Marc Benioff's headlining speech at Dreamforce in 2019 over the partnership.

When it was created, Salesforce placed the Office of Ethical and Humane Use under then-Chief Equality Officer Tony Prophet, whose role expanded last year to also include the recruitment function. But it moved recently, and now sits within the product organization, a spokesperson confirmed to Protocol.

"Over the past two years, the Office of Ethical and Humane Use has grown alongside the company, spanning across policy and product," the company said in a statement. "To deepen this work, the Office of Ethical and Humane Use has moved into the Product organization, where it will continue to span both policy and product."

It's unclear whether Paula Goldman, the head of the Office of Ethical and Humane Use, will still report to Prophet, who used to sit under Benioff but now reports to Chief People Officer Brent Hyder. A spokesperson did not immediately respond to an emailed inquiry.

While other companies have mimicked Salesforce's strategy and propped up similar offices, it remains an open question just how much influence the cohorts have, including the ability to extract deeper, more foundational change, like curbing the widespread use of customer data, experts previously told Protocol. But Salesforce's decision to move the office to sit within the product unit suggests it is poised to have a greater say in the creation of new offerings, according to company insiders.

Some of the Office of Ethical and Humane Use's early victories include "elevating inclusive product language, building privacy safeguards for our vaccine management solutions and launching mechanisms to flag potential bias in data for customers," per Salesforce.

People

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

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