Salesforce AI Ethics Team Tackles Cloud Platform Vendor Challenges


Hello and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: How Salesforce’s AI Ethics Team Handles Internal and Third-Party AI Dilemmas, Intel is making a big investment in its foundry business and the latest financing deals in enterprise technology.

Twirl up

Data silos are a major challenge for 90% of IT managers, according to the latest MuleSoft study report. And that number hasn’t changed since MuleSoft conducted the survey a year ago. Data can be everywhere, but that doesn’t mean it’s integrated.

How the Salesforce Ethics Team Impacts AI Development

When Salesforce engineers were integrating tools that use natural language processing and machine learning to analyze people’s sentiments toward products or brands in social media or reviews, they discovered a problem. The system automatically tagged content containing words such as gay, black or Muslim as negative. This happened even if the statements around them were positive, like “I’m gay and proud.”

Kathy Baxter and her Ethics by Design team within Salesforce stepped in to evaluate the algorithmic tool, but despite the potential for discrimination, some product managers at the company still wanted to deploy the product in beta to get customer feedback.

  • In the end, the ethics group won. “We said no — we have to wait for that,” said Baxter, senior ethical AI architect at Salesforce. “And so the team held back.”
  • It was a rare example of real power for technology ethics watchdogs over product decisions that could affect countless people.
  • In the end, Baxter’s ethical design group worked with engineers to mitigate bias on the product’s machine learning models. They tested and observed how these changes took effect before finally launching the tool as part of its Einstein software in 2017, which is now part of the TableauCRM Software.

Some of the companies facing the most scrutiny of their AI practices say they have integrated ethics into product development.

  • Meta, parent of Facebook, has an interdisciplinary responsible AI group which works with its product teams to ensure fairness in its AI-enabled products.
  • Microsoft’s Responsible AI office sets up governance processes across the company, while another group works to embed the company’s Responsible AI rules into engineering works.
  • famous google closed its AI ethics committee following criticism of its choices for committee members. The company also infuriated the AI ​​ethics community after firing one of the industry’s most respected AI ethics researchers. But today it still has responsible AI and human-centric technology group who works with the product and engineering teams.

But for many companies, putting AI principles into practice isn’t as common, and many are looking to government to create regulations to guide this process.

  • Some ethics roles sit on a legal compliance team or are relegated to a monthly governance or privacy review.
  • However, the Baxter team has a surprising amount of day-to-day interaction and input into decisions made across the organization.
  • When Salesforce was developing models in its Einstein Discovery software for predictive analytics, which is now also part of Tableau CRM, his team convinced engineers to remove data fields displaying zip codes. This neighborhood-level data can be a proxy for race and therefore risks allowing for racial bias in how the system makes predictions.
  • “Although from a legal standpoint it probably would have been acceptable, from an ethical standpoint we said no. And so the team had to remove those fields,” she said.

Yet Salesforce isn’t just what Salesforce is built on. Like many cloud platforms, Salesforce is a dense forest of software applications and tools.

  • The company’s AppExchange hosts apps made by other companies that do everything from providing automated financial planning advice to managing patients with addictions.
  • Salesforce is slowly nudging technology partners toward more ethical practices. For example, Baxter is the author of a paper published last year that outlined steps for organizations to take to address ethical issues during the development and implementation phases of AI.
  • The company also offers a Responsible Artificial Intelligence Creation course for Salesforce users. But this educational module only includes four short lessons with a total duration of 45 minutes.

Education is the main tool of business for encouraging more ethical practices among partners in its vast app marketplace. She also said that in 2022, the company’s account representatives are expected to offer customers additional AI ethics training and services.

For now, “it’s a good to have, it’s a pretty rare thing” to have someone on staff dedicated to ethics in product or service development, Baxter said. “But in a few years it will be madness not to have at least one in your business.”

-Kate Kaye (E-mail | Twitter)


Dataiku is the only AI platform that connects data and actors, empowering anyone to turn data into real business results, from the mundane to the moonshot. Because AI can do so many things, but there is no soul in the machine, only in front of it. Without you, it’s just data.

Learn more

Intel’s Foundry Projects Involve RISC Adoption

As part of Intel’s bid to regain its former leadership position in chip manufacturing, the the company announced a series of milestones Monday was aimed at supporting its contract chip business, Intel Foundry Services. Intel said it launched an “ecosystem alliance” called Accelerator designed to help companies bring new chips to market, and a $1 billion fund to support companies developing technologies to support the foundry ecosystem.

Intel said the fund will focus on helping companies interested in technology around modular products and support an open chip platform — adding several different chip types to a single package, compared to the cramming a bunch of designs onto a single chip.

“Foundry customers are quickly adopting a modular design approach to differentiate their products and accelerate time to market,” CEO Pat Gelsinger said in a statement.

To support the company’s efforts, Intel said it will support designs using multiple instruction set architectures, or ISAs, including x86, Arm, and RISC-V. The company said a key part of its contract chip strategy is a broad range of technology offerings, including RISC-V. Intel said it has joined RISC-V International, the consortium that oversees the RISC-V open source architecture.

— Max A. Cherney (E-mail | Twitter)

Coming to Protocol

The cloud has enabled CIOs to become more strategic and focus on creating business value instead of managing IT as a cost center. Then, the pandemic propelled CIOs into an even more central role: they have become crucial leaders in managing remote work, managing abrupt changes in business operations, and accelerating digital transformation.

So what’s next for CIOs? Join Protocol’s Tom Krazit for a virtual event tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. PT chatting with four incredible IT leaders: Rob Carter, CIO, FedEx; Chris Bedi, IT Director, ServiceNow; Sheila Jordan, Director of Digital Technology, Honeywell; and Vittorio Cretella, CIO Procter & Gamble. RSVP here.

Financial corner

Flexport has raised $935 million from Shopify and other investors in a $8 billion valuation for its global logistics platform.

Chargebee was valued at $3.5 billion after raising $250 million from Tiger Global and Sequoia Global for its subscription management software.

The Productboard value was valued at $1.7 billion after raising $125 million for its product management software.

load smart raised $200 million to automate logistics, valuing the company at $1.3 billion.

TT Tech Auto raised $285 million at a $1 billion valuation for its automated driving software.

The butterfly was valued at $1 billion after raising $125 million to provide employers with a digital benefits platform.


Dataiku is the only AI platform that connects data and actors, empowering anyone to turn data into real business results, from the mundane to the moonshot. Because AI can do so many things, but there is no soul in the machine, only in front of it. Without you, it’s just data.

Learn more

Thanks for reading – see you tomorrow!


Comments are closed.