Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff took a subtle shot on Tuesday at Facebook and other tech companies that have recently faced harsh criticism for lax data privacy policies, among other issues.
Speaking in San Francisco at Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference, Benioff told the audience of salespeople and developers that businesses are facing a “moment in time” in which executives must ask themselves “what is really important to us” and what are the values they must stand for.
Benioff didn’t directly address the current state of national affairs, but several technology companies have faced tough criticism for the perception that their products have led to societal problems like smartphone addiction and data breaches that tech observers have dubbed the “techlash.”
The Salesforce executive warned of the grim future awaiting companies that fail to acknowledge criticism and feedback from their customers and other constituents.
“We watch the executives walk out, the customers walk out as a vote of no confidence to their leaders,” Benioff said. He didn’t directly call out Facebook, but his comments come just a day after the co-founders of the popular photo-sharing business Instagram abruptly announced their departure from parent company Facebook. Numerous executives have left Facebook in recent months, and the social network is facing slower user growth as the company deals with numerous high-profile problems including the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the spread of misinformation on its social network.
Benioff has previously criticized Facebook’s social network as being “addictive” like cigarettes, and has called for more regulation on the technology industry.
He said that leaders should “commit to a higher level” and that Salesforce’s “culture is built on trust.”
“Our trust is with you,” Benioff said. “It’s our highest value.”
Still, Salesforce hasn’t been immune to public backlash over its policies. Although Benioff used his keynote to highlight much of the company’s philanthropic work, he did not address activist criticism over the company’s decision to keep its contract with the Customs and Border Protection agency, which has been carrying out controversial policies involving the separation of children from parents.
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Several activists protested the Dreamforce event on Tuesday over the company’s contract with the Customs and Border Protection agency. Benioff has previously said that Salesforce’s products are not directly involved with the act of separating children from parents and that he has “personally financially supported legal groups helping families at the border.”
Story corrected at 8:30 AM PST. Salesforce has a contract with Customs and Border Protection agency and not U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.