A few tweets from Salesforce's Marc Benioff threaten to squash a cyber-spying law

Salesforce Marc BenioffBusiness InsiderSalesforce CEO Marc Benioff

Internet privacy advocates have been on the warpath against a bill called Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA,bill S.754). They say it would allow government agencies to spy on citizens more easily.

So when the software industry’s lobby group, the Business Software Alliance, wrote an open letter to Congress asking it to pass a bunch of cyber bills, one privacy watchdog group got angry.

The BSA’s letter was signed by the lawyers of some of its biggest members including Salesforce, IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle, Symantec.

Privacy group Fight for the Future read the letter and fired up an internet campaign called “YouBetrayedUs.org” that sent 23,000 emails to the software companies involved, it said. It was also trying to get developers to boycott Salesforce’s cloud, Heroku.

This group believed that this letter was a way to express support for CISA and bills that would “give corporations total legal immunity when they share private user data with the government and with each other,” it warned.

“They were calling broadly for Congress to ‘act promptly’ to pass ‘Cyber Threat Information Sharing Legislation’ just as Congress was preparing to begin discussion on CISA. The lawyers who write these letters know how Congress works: they know that expressing broad support for this type of legislation without any clarifying concerns or calls for improved privacy, etc., will be seen as support from their industry for the bill. That’s why we launched our campaign,” Fight for the Future’s Evan Greer told Business Insider.

The uproar provoked a response from Salesforce’s CEO Marc Benioff, who took to Twitter to disavow CISA.

Benioff tweeted, “The letter clearly was a mistake and doesn’t imply CISA support. We need to clarify. I’m against it.”

He also tweeted,” Contrary to reports Salesforce doesn’t support the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA).


Benioff’s tweets dissing CISA spread and soon, the BSA itself issued a statement saying it doesn’t like CISA, either, nor two similar bills.

For clarity, BSA does not support any of the three current bills pending before Congress, including the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), the Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA), and the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) Act,” the new letter said.

With the largest software lobbying group and powerful industry CEO Marc Benioff now publicly opposing CISA, it will much harder, and likely impossible, for Congress to pass CISA. 

Benioff has no problem lobbying against laws he thinks are unjust. Last spring, his public activism helped roll back some controversial anti-gay legislation in Indiana and other states.

He and his co-founder Parker Harris are also very publicly trying to solve the problem of lack of opportunity and unequal pay for women in the tech industry, starting at Salesforce.

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