In setting our public policy agenda at Workday, the first thing we consider is how well a particular policy empowers our customers and our employees.
For example, we support laws and policies that enable customers to fully harness the power of cloud computing. We want customers to have optimal visibility into their human capital and financial performance, and be able to use their data to gain deep insights into their businesses through advanced analytics and other intelligent technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.
For both customers and employees, we value policies that promote security, strong privacy protections, and a supportive environment for technological advances. We also advocate for policies that support employees in both the workplace and their communities.
With that lens, we want to share our six core policy priorities for this fiscal year, which fall into three principal areas. While many of these issues have been the focus of government attention for some time, the fast pace of technological change drives continued interest in new regulatory action.
Intelligent Technologies and Blockchain
This area is one of continued product innovation and investment for Workday and includes issues that policymakers are just beginning to evaluate.
Intelligent Technologies/Artificial Intelligence(AI). While AI is a hot topic, the term is often used imprecisely in the political sphere to refer to a range of intelligent technologies. One reference to AI may point to automated decision-making systems that supplant human involvement, while other uses address data analytics technologies that guide, but don’t replace, human decision-makers.
We believe that developing and increasing the use of intelligent technologies enables companies across all sectors of the economy to become more efficient, productive, and innovative.
To help clarify the discussion and reduce the probability of unwise and harmful regulation, we’re participating in industry efforts to educate and influence policymakers. We support proposed U.S. legislation introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell, Todd Young, and Ed Markey to create a federal study commission and carefully watching the European Commission’s AI policy agenda that will be introduced in April.
At Workday, we believe that developing and increasing the use of intelligent technologies—including machine learning, big data analytics, and AI—can benefit individuals and society by enabling companies across all sectors of the economy to become more efficient, productive, and innovative. Workday’s product focus is to incorporate intelligent technology tools that give people more information to make better decisions, as outlined in our four-stage AI maturity model for customers.
As AI technologies are nascent, we will work to ensure that regulations do not prematurely constrain AI’s growth and take into account how AI is applied in different contexts. At the same time, we believe intelligent systems must be built in an ethical way to respect privacy and avoid unintended biases. We further believe organizations must be committed to supporting their workforces, including reskilling employees for new roles as their old roles are impacted by intelligent technologies.
Blockchain. Blockchain has achieved notoriety as a result of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. However, blockchain has potential applications that go far beyond digital money. Fundamentally, blockchain is a distributed ledger that allows parties to share information in a decentralized, verifiable, and secure manner. Blockchain has many potential applications, including secure tracking of supply chain components, digital identity tokens, and digital rights management.
It is important that blockchain digital records have the same legal recognition as other records, such as electronic contracts and e-signatures. Ensuring recognition will create market confidence, enabling new services and use cases and promoting economic growth. Some U.S. states have passed laws to this effect, but we think federal legislation will ensure a consistent approach. For the same reasons, we favor EU legislation recognizing blockchain digital records and hope greater consistency will be one outcome of the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum.
Free Flow of Data, Privacy, and Cybersecurity
This area is core to our customers’ ability to bring their data together for analysis, protect it against attacks, and respect the rights of their staff.
Free Flow of Data. Data is fast becoming the lifeblood of modern economies. A principal benefit of cloud computing is the ability to bring together data sets and to perform sophisticated analytics. Workday empowers enterprises to process a wide variety of HR and finance-related transactions, gain new insights into their workforces and financial performance, and manage employees and financial outcomes consistently on a company-wide basis.
These services mandate analysis and computation across a customer’s entire operation, which can occur only if data flows freely across national borders. National or local requirements, often implemented in good faith as a means to protect data privacy and security, are usually ineffective and costly. We see increasing recognition of this, as embodied in the EU’s proposed Free Flow of Data Regulation, which would eliminate most data localization requirements.
In addition, more work remains to be done to ensure that trade agreements are updated to ensure that data, like goods, can flow freely across the globe. All that said, we recognize that data may need to be kept locally in some very narrow cases—sensitive national security information, for example.
Workday has worked comprehensively to support our customers’ GDPR implementations, giving them confidence that adopting Workday can contribute to their compliance.
Privacy. As we’ve outlined, 2018 is a big year for data privacy, with the implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). There will be continued focus on rules for data transfers, particularly with the EU seeking additional agreements with other countries to follow its privacy model as a means of enabling data flows.
Workday has worked comprehensively to support our customers’ GDPR implementations, giving them confidence that adopting Workday can contribute to their compliance. And, we will continue to engage with policymakers to ensure the continued viability of data transfer mechanisms like Privacy Shield and the Standard Contractual Clauses, as well as the development of potential new mechanisms like the EU Cloud Code of Conduct. In Asia, we’re certified as compliant with the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules and will seek approval under the APEC Privacy Rules for Processors once that system is implemented.
Cybersecurity. At Workday, we support strong but flexible cybersecurity requirements such as those found in the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. It’s important that security standards be risk-based, to avoid imposition of technical requirements that aren’t flexible in the face of new threats. We will work with others in the industry to shape the proposed EU Cybersecurity Act, expected later this year, to reflect these principles.
Similarly, to make sure we can seamlessly deliver the latest security updates to our customers, sector-specific regulators should not require language mandating specific security practices in cloud agreements. Rather, they should require that entities negotiate strong risk-based protections consistent with the latest standards so that customers across industries can benefit from our delivery model.
Belonging and Diversity
The third policy area addresses our employees’ participation in the workplace and their engagement in their communities.
Inclusion. At Workday, we remain committed to our values of inclusion, diversity, and acceptance for all. In support of our employees who benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, also known as “Dreamers,” we have urged Congress to pass legislation that provides them with legal status and a path to citizenship. We also advocate for a system of high-skilled immigration that allows us to attract employees from around the world.
To further uphold our value of diversity, Workday hires employees with various educational backgrounds; we’ve invested more than $1 million in Year Up, a nonprofit that provides technical and soft skills training through internships to young adults without college degrees.
Finally, as technology changes the way organizations operate, we believe both companies and government have a role to pay in worker retraining. For our part, we have rolled out the Career Accelerator Program, which provides technical training and internships to military veterans who are transitioning from military to civilian life.
These issues do not represent the entirety of our policy engagement. But on the six issues above, we have a unique perspective—informed by our customers’ experiences and in support of our employees—to share. Our commitment is to continue to push our thinking forward and work with others to advance policies that allow all of us to realize the promise of technological advances while ensuring that we do so in a way that benefits society at large.