Yahoo! Business & Human Rights Program

img_in_bhrp_large It’s no secret that there are governments around the world who don’t live up to widely recognized standards for protecting the free expression and privacy rights of their own citizens. While the root causes of these threats clearly lie with those governments, we also know that we, like all companies, have important human rights obligations. Yahoo! has formally established a dedicated Business & Human Rights Program (BHRP) in order to lead our efforts to make responsible decisions in the areas of free expression and privacy. The BHRP represents another step forward in our commitment to human rights, and our effectiveness depends on the following pillars:

Executive Commitment

The BHRP depends upon our executive team's clear and visible commitment to human rights.

Dedicated Team

The BHRP has a full time core team that guides, directs and manages the BHRP.

Ebele Okobi | Director, Yahoo! Business & Human Rights Program

Ebele Okobi is Director of Yahoo!’s Business & Human Rights Program, leading Yahoo!’s efforts to promote privacy and free expression on the Internet and to identify innovative solutions to human rights problems. Before Yahoo!, Ms. Okobi worked as a corporate lawyer at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York, Paris and London, an attorney fellow at Consumers Union (a consumer rights advocacy NGO) in San Francisco, a director of Advisory Services at Catalyst (an NGO with the mission of advancing women in business) in San Jose and Amsterdam and at Nike’s EMEA headquarters in Amsterdam, where she created marketing, corporate responsibility and business development strategy for Africa and NikeWomen. Ms. Okobi earned a BA in Psychology from the University of Southern California, a JD from Columbia Law School, an MBA Certificat des Études from HEC-Paris and also serves on the board of the Carr Educational Foundation, the parent organization for Daraja Academy, a boarding secondary school for exceptional Kenyan girls.

Sonja Gittens-Ottley | Manager, Yahoo! Business & Human Rights Program

Sonja Gittens-Ottley is the Manager, Yahoo!’s Business & Human Rights Program, executing Yahoo!’s initiatives to promote privacy and free expression on the Internet. Prior to joining Yahoo!, Sonja worked as an attorney at the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (the country’s supervisory and regulatory financial authority, responsible for the implementation of the country’s monetary policy), where she focused on banking, financial compliance, and corporate governance issues. She has also worked with the Ministry of Legal Affairs & Office of the Attorney-General of Trinidad and Tobago, the Department of State responsible for the provision of legal advice on all local and international matters. In that capacity, she developed and implemented comparative legal research programs and served as a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Human Rights Consultative Committee for the development of periodic reports for submission to the United Nations.

Ms. Gittens‐Ottley holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the University of the West Indies, Barbados, a Legal Education Certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School, Trinidad and Tobago, and GradICSA status from the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, United Kingdom.


Cross-Functional Team

The BHRP has created a virtual, cross functional team in order to draw upon the expertise of Yahoo! employees across the company to continue its centralized leadership on global strategy, industry initiatives, business decision-making, and internal and external stakeholder engagement. The virtual team is comprised of senior‐level employees in product, law enforcement, security, public affairs, corporate affairs, investor relations and global policy. The virtual team also includes employees in different geographies, including Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.

Guiding Principles and Operational Guidelines

We’re committed to the international foundations of freedom of expression and privacy, and have translated those principles into practical steps to be followed by our employees. Past and upcoming projects include employee engagement events around the globe, and targeted employee training on human rights policies and procedures.

Human Rights Touch-Point Inventory + Clearinghouse

We are constantly reviewing where our business intersects with potential human rights issues and ensuring that potential issues are routed to the right teams.

Human Rights Impact Assessments

We’re committed to exploring risks to freedom of expression and privacy in challenging markets, engaging with external stakeholders, and designing risk mitigation strategies. To learn more about how we conduct HRIAs, click here.

Internal and External Stakeholder Engagement

As an Internet company, Yahoo! recognizes that we have a responsibility to promote free expression and privacy, and that we have an opportunity to use our platform to foster an exchange of ideas about how companies, government, NGOs, responsible investors, users and other stakeholders can work together to address the complex issues that lie at the intersection of technology and human rights. Since 2009, the Yahoo! Business & Human Rights Program has hosted an annual Business & Human Rights Summit. To learn more about our Summits, please see here. In 2012, we launched the Change Your World Series, regional events focused on how women are using social media, digital media, technology and the Internet to change their worlds. To date, events have been held in Cairo and Washington, DC. Change Your World Mexico City will take place in September 2012. Learn more about the Change Your World Series. We recognize that our users are important stakeholders, and we engage directly with them through our blog. We also maintain our strong relationships with industry peers, human rights groups, academics, and governments, including our own State Department. The GNI is another way we stay connected; for more about the GNI, please see here.

Accountability Framework

As a member of the GNI, we have worked with the other stakeholders to develop an effective system to assess our own performance in meeting our overall goals and our operational steps relating to human rights issues. As part of Yahoo!'s commitment to the GNI Principles and Implementation Guidelines, we agreed to be assessed by a third-party assessor on the policies and procedures we have in place to support our commitments. In 2010, pursuant to the GNI Governance, Accountability and Learning Framework, we provided a report to the GNI on our progress towards creating and adopting internal policies and procedures necessary to implement the Principles. In 2011, an independent assessment of Yahoo! was conducted by KPMG AG of the policies, processes, and procedures in place to implement the GNI Principles. To learn more about the assessment, see here. In 2012 and onwards, independent assessments will examine specific cases, determine company compliance and identify whether our policies and procedures work in practice.  

Increasing Transparency and Empowering Users

Did you receive a notice from Yahoo! saying that someone is requesting information related to your account? If so, it means Yahoo! Inc. received legal process (e.g., a subpoena or court order) requiring us to disclose information about your account. Yahoo! sent the notice because we respect your (and all users') rights and privacy. It is Yahoo! Inc.'s policy to explicitly notify users about third-party requests for their information prior to disclosure, and thereby provide them with an opportunity to challenge the request. In some cases, Yahoo! may be prohibited by law from providing such notice, and in exceptional circumstances Yahoo! may elect not to provide notice (e.g. imminent threats of life). These email notices are designed to provide transparency that empowers you the user to challenge a request for data. As such, a notice from Yahoo! will never ask for your personal information or require you to sign in to obtain more information. If you received an email notice purportedly from Yahoo! that asks for this type of information, it is likely a scam. Do not provide the requested information. Instead, report it to us or flag it in Yahoo! Mail as a phishing scam. If you have questions about the security of your account, please contact Yahoo! Help Central. For additional information and resources regarding online security, please visit the Yahoo! Security Center.