TikTok Names New Head of Security Amid Heightened US Scrutiny
Kim Albarella was appointed to serve as interim head of TikTok's Global Security Organization, the company said in a statement Friday. She will oversee the transition as Roland Cloutier, who is stepping back from day-to-day operations on Sept. 2, moves into an advisory role focusing on the business impact of security and trust programs. TikTok is owned by China's ByteDance Ltd.
“Part of our evolving approach has been to minimize concerns about the security of user data in the US, including the creation of a new department to manage US user data for TikTok,” Chief Executive Officer Shou Zi Chew and ByteDance Vice President of Technology Dingkun Hong said in a statement. “This is an important investment in our data protection practices, and it also changes the scope of the Global CSO role.”
Several Republican senators wrote to Chew in a June 27 letter expressing concern about a report in Buzzfeed News that said TikTok's US consumer data was accessed by company engineers in China. The lawmakers said TikTok and ByteDance “are using their access to a treasure trove of US consumer data to surveil Americans.” The senators added that this “unfortunately extends beyond consumer data into the national security space. ”
Brendan Carr, a Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission, has been one of the most vocal opponents of TikTok, and has pushed Apple Inc. and Google to remove the popular video app from their stores. This week, Carr testified on a House panel about his concern that military personnel using the app could be risking national security.
TikTok responded to the senators in a June 30 letter, acknowledging that certain China-based employees can access information from US users, but denied information goes to the Chinese Communist Party.
TikTok has also said it's working with the US government to strengthen the security around user information -- particularly anything defined as “protected” by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS. The new effort includes physically storing US information in data centers on US servers owned by software giant Oracle Corp.
Cloutier's exit from the role has been in the works for the last quarter, as the company has been setting up a US-specific data security team called “USDS” to address those needs in the region, according to a person familiar with the matter. This team has reported into TikTok's CEO directly and also includes employees working across engineering, product, content moderation and operations, the person said.