What would I get from Platform Encryption that I cannot get from Field Level Security?

We are investigating whether or not to invest in Salesforce Shield, so I want to better understand the advantages offered by Platform Encryption. The org in question is for a healthcare company, so I am specifically interested in PHI implications.

I think we would mostly use it to encrypt field-level data. From the end-user perspective, it seems to me like they achieve the same result: some users can no longer see protected data.


The main advantage of Platform Encryption versus Classic Encrypted Custom Fields is:

Transparency for business critical Platform features, such as search, workflow, and validation rules

You'd have to invistigate requirements for private health records storage, as FLS would not be an option in case of:

Privacy policies, regulatory requirements, and contractual obligations for handling private data

You can look at this (FLS vs Encrypted) like you own a gun and:

  • A. You hid it somewhere in your house (there is a potential risk of someone discovering it)
  • B. It's stored in the safe and only your wife knows the password :)
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Platform Encryption will go further than just preventing the users from seeing data, it will also encrypt the fields at the database level. For example, you can't even issue a SoQL query doing an "Order By XXX" if that field is encrypted.

Also, PE lets you encrypt fields not subject to FLS (Account and Contact name, for example). In those cases, users will see "****" instead of the actual value in RLs, Reports, Lookups and other things. This also means users might be able to create accounts, but then can't edit them or report on them.

I can find more documentation if the couple of blurbs above do not properly address your question.


Two more things I forgot to mention are

1) Compliance. Platform Encryption is compliant with a number of standards that need stricter restrictions than FLS, or that require that even Sys Admins are shielded from seeing some data.

2) You an encrypt Encrypted Attachments, Files, and Content, which FLS may or may not help you secure.

More resources here and here

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  • The implications link is certainly interesting. I'm still not sure I completely understand, but perhaps that requires a more nuanced understanding of what we have to comply with in the first place. – Adrian Larson May 16 '16 at 22:57
  • I'll be happy to help (online or offline) if you need somebody that has used this (I had to build an ISV package leverages Acct and Contacts and can be installed in Plat Encrypted orgs. It is not a lot of fun) – Sebastian Kessel May 16 '16 at 22:58

After our meeting with a rep who walked us through Shield in more detail, he said basically there are two reasons to use Platform Encryption:

  1. You are worried someone is going to physically steal a hard drive from Salesforce's data centers.
  2. The government (or your internal compliance team) tells you that you have to.

It sounds like HIPAA actually doesn't require encryption at rest (at least according to our legal team, IANAL), so really it's just #1 for our scenario, and I don't think we have to worry about it.

More importantly, the rep specifically mentioned that Platform Encryption is not a replacement for Field Level Security. Even if you use the former, it should be in tandem with the latter, not as a replacement.

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