TikTok CSO: ‘AI is revolutionising the tech industry’

30 Apr 2021

Roland Cloutier. Image: TikTok

TikTok’s global CSO discusses his role at the growing social media company and his thoughts on digital transformation.

As global chief security officer of TikTok, Roland Cloutier oversees information protection, risk, workforce protection, crisis management and investigative security operations around the world.

The video-sharing platform has been steadily expanding its presence in Ireland over the last year, and announced plans to open a new European Transparency and Accountability Centre in Dublin earlier this week.

Before joining in TikTok in 2020, Cloutier spent 10 years as CSO at payroll services firm ADP. Prior to that, he was CSO at data storage vendor EMC, which is now owned by Dell.

‘Interconnected digital ecosystems are vital to driving scalable, global business outcomes’

Describe your role and your responsibilities in driving tech strategy.

Every day when I wake up, I have the opportunity to work with an incredible team of security practitioners whose ultimate goal is to protect a community where everyone feels safe and inspired to create, connect, and be entertained.

As chief security officer, I oversee TikTok’s information protection, risk, workforce protection, crisis management and investigative security operations globally.

An area we are particularly focused on is horizon-scanning for threats so we can better prepare for and mitigate business risks. Understanding the potential impacts of these emerging threats further enhances our defence and response capabilities.

Are you spearheading any major product or IT initiatives you can tell us about?

Our defence in depth model is one of many areas I’m particularly excited about because it leverages a multi-layered approach to security. One layer of the programme focuses on machine learning and automated monitoring tools to track anomalous and inauthentic user behaviour, while another integrates a privacy-first approach within the product development life cycle from design through post-launch.

How big is your team?

We have a large and fast-growing team of security practitioners around the world, including our global cyber defence, privacy operations and product security programmes and we plan to nearly double that number by the end of 2021.

Our global security organisation is based out of the US but we also have a sizeable data protection and privacy team in Dublin, which leads our operations and decision-making across Europe.

We also intend to establish a new data centre in Ireland, our first data centre in Europe. This €420m investment will create hundreds of new jobs and play a key role in further strengthening the safeguarding and protection of TikTok user data, with a state of the art physical and network security defence system planned around this new operation.

TikTok also partners with leading cybersecurity firms to accelerate our work toward advancing and validating our adherence to globally recognised security control standards.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation?

Interconnected digital ecosystems are vital to driving scalable, global business outcomes, especially in a world where most organisations now function remotely. In previous roles, I’ve been involved in spearheading digital transformations for businesses across industries using technology to fuel a new era of enhanced safety, security and privacy.

One thing that makes TikTok such a unique and rewarding experience is that the company was born digital. At TikTok, we deploy innovative technologies to not only build incredible products for our global communities but also to protect our platform as a home for creative expression and joy.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and your industry specifically?

Advances in AI and machine learning are definitely impacting the power of technology to transform the world. Whether leveraging automation to defend against inauthentic behaviour or machine learning to recommend a curated content feed based on interests, both AI and machine learning are revolutionising the industry.

Unfortunately, these advanced capabilities are not only being used by technology experts to provide a safe, secure and enjoyable consumer experience. Criminals are also using these cutting-edge technologies to scale their operations, automate their attacks to reduce the cost of their adversary activity, and develop new control bypass capabilities.

In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect data?

Building programmes dedicated to data protection such as our data defence programme drives a multi-layered approach to safeguarding sensitive information.

At TikTok, we aim to be the most transparent digital platform in the industry. That starts with being open about our security practices. We opened our US transparency and accountability centre last year, inviting subject-matter experts to review our content moderation processes, data security practices, algorithm and source code. We’re also empowering our users with in-app data security and privacy choices so they can customise the experience that’s right for them.

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