(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
Is a CRM system necessary for re-opening your business, post-coronavirus? Salesforce.com thinks it is, and the company is providing a new suite of tools to help its customers do just that. Announced last week, the company introduced (or re-introduced) a bunch of technology solutions and resources designed to make re-opening, re-training and responding to CV-19 issues faster and easier.
“Every company and community in the world is focusing on how to safely reopen and get to a new normal,” Bret Taylor, the company’s President said in a statement. “We’re bringing together powerful new technology, our partners and network of experts to help organizations reopen and recover from this crisis while putting employee and visitor health and safety first.”
The product suite is called Work.com. Its applications will offer customers the ability to “manually trace health and relationship contacts” of its employees in a “safe and private manner” and then share that information with health organizations, government agencies and the private sector to “record and understand data, triage and evaluate patients and provide ongoing engagement and monitoring.”
The suite’s employee wellness offerings will allow “leaders to gather the data needed to monitor and analyze employee and visitor health and wellness.” From that information, companies can then “create employee health surveys, monitor wellness trends and use data to make informed decisions on the return to work, all while keeping employee health information secure.”
Salesforce is a good company and one way to look at this is that the CRM giant – despite its profit motives – is trying to do its part to use technology for the common good. We all want to work and shop in safe places. Health and safety is certainly the number one issue that must be addressed for any business re-opening their doors over the next few months. To do this, data needs to be collected and employees need to be monitored. Work.com also comes with tools to help better manage shifts so that social distancing objectives can be maintained as well as provide timely communication to a workforce. There will also be additional resources and input provided by a team of outside medical and economic experts.
So this is a good thing, right?
Right. But doesn’t it all sound just a little creepy too? Of course it does. What Salesforce’s Work.com is really doing is collecting all sorts of health information from employees in an effort to build a data-driven strategy for minimizing the health risks of re-opening a business. But in doing so it raises a bunch of very grave questions.
Like, where does that data collection end? Who’s looking at this data? How can an employer stay on the right side of HIPAA – the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that imposes federal regulations on people’s healthcare information? How secure is that data? What are the parameters of the data that’s being collected? What if an employee doesn’t want to participate? What if another health issue is discovered that’s not related to the virus?
I’m sure that the leaders at Salesforce are well aware of these issues and are doing what they can to minimize their impact on an employee’s confidentiality. But the sad fact is that in order to restore our economic growth, something will have to be given up. That something is privacy. Hundreds of companies like Salesforce are currently introducing their technologies to help employers maintain a “safe” workplace, from temperature checking kiosks, to biometric scanners and of course CRM applications that better track schedules, activities and health data.
Most employees will accept these things as a necessary evil in order to get back to work. But there will be a limit. Governments are working hard right now to combat and stem the spread of the virus. But eventually they’ll catch up to the fact that some lines have been crossed and will have to take a hard look at the price that was paid to win this war. And I’m betting that regulatory changes will be demanded of the data collection being done by software applications like Salesforce’s Work.com.
But not for now. As an employer, your best course of action is to do what you need to do to balance the data you’re collecting with the overall welfare and privacy concerns of your employees and customers. And remember, as well-intentioned as Salesforce and other tech companies may be, just because a software system is open to accepting your employees’ data doesn’t mean that you should be open to collecting it.
If you overstep the mark and violate people’s privacy I’m not sure Salesforce – or any of the other tech companies enabling your ability to do this – will have your back.