Canada has banned the use of China’s WeChat on government-issued mobile devices after implementing similar restrictions on popular short-video application TikTok earlier this year.
The ban was announced after an assessment by Canada’s chief information officer that the Tencent-owned messaging app presented “an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.”
The assessment and ban was also implement on Russian antivirus program Kaspersky.
“The decision to remove and block the WeChat and the Kaspersky applications was made to ensure that government of Canada networks and data remain secure and protected and are in line with the approach of our international partners,” the Treasury Board of Canada, which oversees public administration, said in a statement.
The board added it has no evidence that government information has been compromised, but the collection methods of the applications provide considerable access to a device’s contents, and risks of using them were “clear.”
The applications will be removed from government-issued mobile devices on Monday, and users will be blocked from downloading them in the future.
‘Abuse of national power’
China’s foreign ministry said the Canadian government had issued a ban on Chinese enterprises without any real evidence, and under the guise of maintaining data security, which is a typical generalisation of the concept of national security.
It said the ban abused national power and unreasonably suppresses the behaviour of enterprises in specific countries.
“We hope that the Canadian side will discard ideological prejudices, abide by the principles of market economy and provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese enterprises,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular press briefing on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Kaspersky said it was surprised and disappointed. It said Canada had made the decision without warning or an opportunity for the firm to address the government’s concerns.
“As there has been no evidence or due process to otherwise justify these actions, they are highly unsupported and a response to the geopolitical climate rather than a comprehensive evaluation of the integrity of Kaspersky’s products and services,” the company said in a statement.
WeChat did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena