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Marc Benioff defends Salesforce’s contract with Customs and Border Protection

“Every company in our industry will now have to look at the ethical and humane use of the technology that they’re building.”

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff
Shirin Ghaffary is a senior Vox correspondent covering the social media industry. Previously, Ghaffary worked at BuzzFeed News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and TechCrunch.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has faced criticism about his company’s contract to sell software to the U.S. federal immigration agency, Customs and Border Protection.

Earlier this year, hundreds of Salesforce employees signed a letter urging Benioff to cancel the contract because of the agency’s role in enforcing President Trump’s controversial family separation border policy; Salesforce has denied that its software is involved in separating families at the border.

In an interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher this week, Benioff defended the move, calling it “absolutely” the right decision. In August, Salesforce created an Office of Ethical and Humane Use of Technology to set industry-wide standards around such issues in the future.

“There were a lot of things that were being said about us that weren’t true. That’s fine. That’s not really the point,” said Benioff. “The point in my mind is we didn’t have a way to have the conversation, and now we do. And I think every company’s going to need to be able to have a structured conversation around humane use.”

Salesforce isn’t the only tech company to face criticism from its workers about how their technology is being used by the U.S. government. Employees at Microsoft, Amazon and Google have taken similarly vocal positions in the past year. The discussion has been part of a growing “We Won’t Build It” movement by tech workers demanding to stop what they feel are morally questionable uses of their companies’ software.

“I don’t think there’s gonna be any finish line when it comes to the ethical and humane use of technology. That is, we are in a new world,” said Benioff. “And how our technology that we’re creating here is gonna be used, whether it’s in the U.S. government or in corporations, well, this all has to be looked at.”

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