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Data privacy

Salesforce GC: Privacy will require transparency, control, and accountability

In the latest in our Tech Talks series, Thomson Reuters Asif Alam talks to Amy Weaver, Salesforce President & General Counsel, about privacy in the age of GDPR.

2018 has been a watershed year for the international conversation on privacy and transparency. As the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect, companies are assessing the full impact and what comes next.

Salesforce has shown itself to be a GDPR leader due to a focus on the convergence of privacy for all citizens and companies. Salesforce’s customer focus puts the individual at the heart of everything and respects customer’s preferences, putting them ahead of the game.

“I think when a company is customer focused and really puts the individual at the heart of everything and respects their preferences you’re already a long way down the road with GDPR.” –Salesforce President & General Counsel Amy Weaver

ASIF ALAM: How did Salesforce prepare itself for customers around GDPR?

AMY WEAVER:  Well, GDPR has been an exciting development I think for the entire industry, but it’s also been a big commitment.  So, about a year ago … the legal team, our technology and products team, our marketing teams, (sat down) and did an assessment across all of our products.

And the good news is despite the complexity of GDPR, we’re really in a good position.  I think when a company is customer focused and really puts the individual at the heart of everything and respects their preferences you’re already a long way down the road with GDPR.

So, we were able to really spend the last year working with our customers and see how (can) we partner with them. We had breakfast seminars, we had literally thousands of one‑on‑one meetings. But we also had two really great resources I’m proud of. One is, we set up our own website at We put on frequently asked questions. We had on basics, we put on primers, we put on details about our products ‑‑ anything anyone would want to know. It’s just a terrific resource.

But we also (communicated) on Trailhead, our learning management system. And it’s open to the public, it’s free, it’s easy, it’s fun. We developed a badge on Trailhead so someone can go on and they can actually take this course ‑‑ it takes about 45 minutes ‑‑ and earn a badge for EU privacy basics. And we’ve already had 22,000 people do that.

ASIF ALAM: What about privacy? Privacy issues are coming up so much, especially in the U.S…

AMY WEAVER: This is an incredibly exciting time for privacy. Globally, we’re really seeing a convergence around the importance of privacy for all citizens, and Europe has typically led in this area. I think this is really the opportunity for the U.S. to step up and be a leader and not just a follower in protecting our citizens’ privacy rights.

And I think there’s three things that we can be doing as we look to try to bring around a Federal law. The first is really insist on transparency. People need to know how their data is being collected, how it’s being used and how it’s being shared. And the second is control, and we need to focus on giving individuals control over their own privacy preferences. And then the third thing is accountability. We have to hold companies accountable for following their own privacy policy.

ASIF ALAM: And would it be difficult going across the borders? How would you do that?

AMY WEAVER: I think that’s what we really need to focus on. The Internet doesn’t have borders, and we can’t throw up new borders that are going to artificially affect the flow of data, so we need to do it in a way that’s respectful but also has some certain similarities around the world.

In Latin America, many countries right now are also looking at their own version of the GDPR and what they can do. We need to make sure all of these (initiatives) work together.

Learn more

Explore the rest of our Tech Talks series, where we chat with leaders from global technology firms — including Salesforce, Cisco, and Google — about industry trends, transformational technologies, and what comes next.

For more on GDPR, view our resource hub — Data privacy: A new dawn in the age of GDPR.