Canada Bans WeChat From Government Devices

Canadian parliament. Image credit: Canadian government

Canada bans Chinese super-app WeChat from government devices, following similar move for TikTok in February

Canada has banned popular Chinese communications app WeChat from government devices over national security risks, following a similar action taken against short video app TikTok earlier this year.

In the same Monday announcement the country also banned applications from Russian computer security firm Kaspersky Lab, with the restrictions taking place immediately.

“WeChat and [the] Kaspersky suite of applications present an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security,” said the Treasury Board of Canada, which oversees public administration.

The data collection methods of both applications provide “considerable access” to a mobile device’s contents, the government said.

Image credit: Unsplash

‘Risk-based approach’

Treasury Board president Anita Anand added that there was no evidence government information had been compromised.

“We are taking a risk-based approach to cyber security by removing access to these applications on government mobile devices,” Anand said.

Those using Canadian government mobile devices will have the apps removed and will be barred from downloading them in future.

Silicon UK has requested comment from Shenzhen-based Tencent, which develops and operates WeChat.

The app provides communications features as well as everything from ordering groceries to booking events and paying bills, so that it is sometimes called an “everything app”.

Government ban

With more than 1 billion users, WeChat is ubiquitous in China – and is more widely used than email – as well as being popular in Chinese diaspora communities across southeast Asia and elsewhere.

But it has received less attention in the West because it is mainly used by Chinese speakers – unlike TikTok, which has become popular across a broad spectrum of society.

TikTok has been banned from government devices by a number of Western governments, including those of the UK, the EU and the US, with Canada following suit in February.

Then-US president Donald Trump attempted to entirely ban WeChat along with TikTok from the country in August 2020 through executive orders, but these were blocked by injunction and were later repealed by his successor Joe Biden.