TikTok loses US security chief as government ban threatens

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TikTok’s US head of security and trust is reportedly leaving the company on May 12. Eric Han’s departure comes as TikTok grapples with a potential government ban.

Eric Han led the security teams for TikTok in the US for years. In December 2022, he was appointed Head of Trust and Safety for TikTok US Data Security (USDS). This entity was created to convince the government that TikTok is properly managing American data.

The edge received a copy of a memo distributed to employees announcing the termination. USDS interim general manager Andy Bonillo said he will take on the role until “we find Eric’s longer-term replacement.” Bonillo’s interim title remains as the US government has not approved TikTok’s USDS proposal. It would also have an impact on who would head the department if it gave final approval.

“Over the past four years, Eric has helped protect our US community during an incredible period of growth,” he said memo reads by Bonillo. “We remain committed to our commitment to the TikTok community — both in the US and around the world — and continue to invest in trust and security as the cornerstones of this effort.”

Currently, the fate of TikTok in the US is in a precarious position. State governments like Montana have taken steps to ban the entire app for their citizens. The Biden administration has also signaled that it does not believe the separate USDS entity created by TikTok is sufficient to address its national security concerns. TikTok could be ordered to fully divest itself of its Chinese parent company ByteDance.

US intelligence officials like FBI Director Christopher Wray have repeatedly issued warnings about TikTok. It’s not just about the amount of data the app can collect about users, but also what the algorithm can pass on to users. It can be used to suppress sensitive ideas or send viral trends like eating TidePods to the top of the Discovery feed.