TikTok on Friday announced major changes to its security leadership as the social media platform faces intense scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers over its ties to China.
The abbreviated video service’s global security chief Roland Cloutier will step down in September, moving into a senior advisory role while current chief security officer Kim Albarella will replace him on an interim basis, TikTok said.
Cloutier was previously director of security at payroll company ADP and joined the company in 2020 – a year when TikTok faced major security issues and then-President Donald Trump attempted to ban the app in the United States by executive order, citing national security concerns. Trump’s attempted ban was blocked in court.
However, reports from BuzzFeed last month based on dozens of recorded internal TikTok meetings revealed that private data on US users was repeatedly accessed by China-based employees.
The news story sparked scrutiny of TikTok’s data practices, including from Republican lawmakers and Federal Communications Commission member Brendan Carr.
In response to an investigation by lawmakers late last month, TikTok confirmed that some US private user data had been accessed in China. However, the company also wrote that it was working to strengthen its security protocols for such information in conjunction with the US government through an internal program dubbed “Project Texas.”
“Part of our evolutionary approach has been to minimize concerns about the security of US user data, including creating a new department to manage US user data for TikTok,” the CEO wrote. TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, and ByteDance’s Vice President of Technology, Dingkun Hong. in a joint message accompanying the announcement of Cloutier’s departure. “This is a significant investment in our data protection practices, and it also changes the scope of the Global Chief Security Officer (CSO) role.”
On Thursday, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee requested documents for an investigation following the BuzzFeed reports.
TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.