Cybersecurity and ad verification firm White Ops is renaming itself Human from today (March 30), six months after announcing its intention to rebrand in recognition that its name "perpetuates a toxic association of good and bad with colour and race".
The nine-year-old company said in a release that its new name "more authentically represents its values, its employees and the digital community it protects".
Co-founder Tamer Hassan said: "[Human] represents what we are here to do: protect the integrity of the internet and our customers from bot attacks to keep digital experiences human."
The word Human has been core to the company's branding since it was founded—employees have been donning tshirts with the word Human or Robot from its launch.
"It is who we have always been. And we get to keep the t-shirt," Hassan wrote in a blog post.
Hassan announced his intention to rebrand the company in October 2020, a move inspired by the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement worldwide. Following George Floyd's killing at the hands of police brutality in May, many companies were forced to confront racist associations in their names and branding. Uncle Ben's, Aunt Jemima and Darlie were among brands that pledged to rebrand.
The name White Ops is a play on 'black ops', a covert operation carried out by a government or military unit. If 'black' represents secret, then 'white' represents transparency, and in White Ops' instance refers to the company's mission to shine a light on the dark sides of cybercrime.
But it also comes with connotations of 'black' being bad and 'white' being good—similar to the way in which the advertising industry uses 'whitelists' and 'blacklists'. Integral Ad Science banished these "regressive terms", as it refers to them, from its vocabulary in July last year and uses 'inclusion' and 'exclusion' lists instead.
Hassan said race was not considered when White Ops was named by its four co-founders in a Brooklyn sci-fi bookstore in 2012, but admitted that the name now "represents something different than what we’ve intended". He added that the corporate challenge of changing a brand name "is nothing compared to the experience of sustained and systemic racism against Black people".
The cybersecurity firm has spent the past six months reviewing "thousands" of potential names and testing its branding with customers, partners, analysts, industry leaders, employees, family and friends. It said Human was the most fitting choice.
Chief marketing officer Dan Lowden explained: "We kept coming back to Human, a theme we’ve embodied since 2014. Human best reflects our company’s journey and captures the unique characteristics of our culture and values. We fight every day to keep the internet human and protect our customers' digital experiences. This new identity galvanises our vision and strategically positions us to define the future of the cybersecurity market on our terms."
Human was acquired by Goldman Sachs Merchant Banking Division, in partnership with ClearSky Security and NightDragon, in December 2020. It said its owners "fully backed the new identity".
Beyond its name change, the company is planning to make an internal push to bolster its equality and diversity by hiring a person dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), training and development.