Canada has banned the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat and the Russian cybersecurity platform Kaspersky from government smartphones and other mobile devices due to concerns related to privacy and security.
A statement issued by the government announced that the suite of applications would be immediately removed from government-issued devices, and users would be blocked from downloading them in the future.
Treasury Board President Anita Anand, responsible for overseeing Canada’s federal public service, explained that the nation’s chief information officer had determined that these apps “present an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.”
Anand noted that while no security breaches had been detected, the data collection methods of these platforms on mobile devices provided them with significant access to the device’s contents.
She stated, “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.”
This decision follows Canada’s ban on TikTok in February, a platform owned by ByteDance in China, on government devices.
In the case of TikTok, Oracle had been chosen to store all data from U.S. users, a move that came after President Joe Biden revoked previous executive orders by Donald Trump that sought to ban TikTok and WeChat from U.S. markets due to national security concerns.
Tensions between Ottawa and Beijing have been strained, with issues such as the detention of a Huawei senior executive and two Canadian nationals in December 2018 adding to the friction.
Earlier this year, relations between the two nations reached a new low when Ottawa accused Beijing of interfering in Canadian elections and attempting to intimidate Members of Parliament, leading to the expulsion of a Chinese diplomat in May.
Just last week, the Canadian government raised concerns about a disinformation campaign it dubbed “Spamouflage,” which was linked to China.
The campaign involved waves of online posts and manipulated deepfake videos aimed at disparaging and discrediting Canadian lawmakers, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. A public inquiry into allegations of foreign interference, which China has rejected, began in September.