Skip to Content
Skip to Footer

Technology Ethics

Principles for the Ethical Use of COVID-19 Vaccine Technology Solutions

mask

COVID-19 vaccine management and distribution is a new and complex challenge. Salesforce is committed to building technology and services in partnership with top medical and public health experts that will help our society safely and securely return to work and everyday life.

However, for technology to be effective, it must be built responsibly—and no matter how good a tool is, people won’t use it unless it has their trust. Technology alone does not solve for systemic health and social inequity. 

As we transition into this next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to engage public health officials and frontline workers, who we’ll listen to and learn from so we can best support their critical work. Technology can help organizations manage their COVID-19 vaccine programs, providing capabilities for vaccination appointment scheduling, vaccine inventory management and administration, notifications, outcome monitoring, and more.

Earlier this spring, we published Privacy and Ethical Use Principles Guiding our COVID-19 Response. With vaccine management taking shape as the next phase of the pandemic response, we have evolved our guidance. 

The following three principles are a north star for our company, as well as customers and partners, on ethical, socially responsible and equitable uses of our technology.

(1) Human Rights and Equity

Globally, COVID-19’s impacts are not equally distributed across communities, nor are those groups equally equipped to weather the impacts. Vulnerable populations that are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 already face significant barriers to health opportunity and suffer significantly more negative health outcomes. In the U.S., these may include Black and Latinx communities, undocumented populations, people with pre-existing health conditions or in long-term care facilities, and those without access to technology. While meeting the urgency of the moment, those working on vaccine technology tools have a responsibility to consider existing disparities and avoid creating new ones.

With human rights and equality at the forefront, it’s critical that technologies are accessible to all—meaning they can be used by people who may not have access to wifi or smartphones, as well as people with disabilities. Practically, this means solutions should offer various ways for users to demonstrate negative COVID-19 status, such as through a print-out, app notification or SMS text. Solutions should also meet accessibility standards and be offered in multiple languages. Equity also means the ability to show health status by considering both vaccine status and test status equally, since COVID-19 vaccines won’t be available to everyone at the same time, and not everyone will be able to get vaccinated for health or other reasons. 

Finally, artificial intelligence should not be used to predict personal characteristics or beliefs that would affect a person’s or group’s prioritization for access to vaccines—automated decision-making in the context of such potentially life-altering circumstances should support and inform human judgment, and implement guidance based on known features.

(2) Privacy and Autonomy

A user’s decision to use an application or to adopt a technology should be voluntary, and with full understanding of the purpose and use of the technology. If a person elects not to opt-in, they should be provided alternative methods to demonstrate their health status. 

It’s important we make sure users know how their personal data are being collected and used, and what their rights are to control that information. Users should trust that their data are protected. 

This includes making sure data collection is clearly opt-in and limited, use is clear and transparent, and users maintain control over their personal health data (and can provide prior consent for the storage and release of their data). 

For example, in Work.com, by default, shift managers do not see the details of a person’s “wellness status”—they only see if someone is available to work or not, protecting employees’ privacy while also helping managers schedule appropriately. 

(3) Trust and Transparency

Transparency is particularly important in times of high uncertainty. Clear procedures for prioritization and allocation of vaccines, and outcomes monitoring are critical. Access to timely, robust, and relevant information is essential for establishing accountability, improving efficiency, and maintaining trust. Technology solutions should only be used to implement transparent processes and frameworks that have been developed and approved by public health authorities. 

Key to engendering trust is the intentional inclusion of a range of external experts, partners, and community representatives—especially those who may be historically underrepresented. 

Lastly, we continue to build trust with our customers by ensuring that our platform allows our customers to meet government compliance and security standards such as HIPAA, HITRUST, 21 CFR Part 11, FedRAMP.

We are learning together

The pandemic situation is rapidly changing and the context is fluid. As technology partners, we take the opportunity to help enable our frontline workers and medical experts’ important work very seriously. As we move through this next phase of the pandemic, we are committed to evolving our response as we work with our partners to listen, learn, and act.

Read the Principles for the Ethical Use of COVID-19 Vaccine Technology Solutions

Disclaimer:

These principles should not be construed to provide legal advice. We urge you to consult with your own legal counsel to familiarize yourself with the requirements that govern your specific situation (including requirements around the use of specific technology solutions and the collection and use of personal information).