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Canada bans China’s Wechat from government devices citing security risks – CNN News

By Juliana Liu, CNN

The popular WeChat app has more than 1 billion users

Hong Kong (CNN) – Canada has banned Chinese super-app WeChat on official government devices citing cybersecurity risks, following similar action taken against short-form video app TikTok earlier this year.

The latest ban, announced on Monday and effective the same day, was also imposed on applications from Kaspersky Lab, a Russian maker of antivirus programs.

Canada’s chief information officer had determined that “WeChat and [the] Kaspersky suite of applications present an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security,” the Treasury Board of Canada, which oversees public administration, said in a statement.

On a mobile device, the data collection methods of both applications provide “considerable access” to the device’s contents, according to the statement. It added there was no evidence that government information had been compromised.

Users of Canadian government cellphones will have the apps removed and will be blocked from downloading them in the future.

CNN has reached out to Tencent, the owner of Wechat, and Kaspersky Lab for comment.

WeChat is one of the world’s most popular apps. It is sometimes described as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and PayPal all rolled into one.

More than 1 billion users, primarily in mainland China, rely on the social network to do virtually everything, from ordering groceries to booking a yoga class to paying bills, without leaving the app.

In February, the Canadian government banned TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, from government-issued mobile devices in light of cybersecurity concerns.

US and allied officials have expressed concerns that TikTok or ByteDance could be asked by the Chinese government to hand over the personal information of TikTok users.

A former employee of ByteDance, Yintao Yu, has outlined specific claims that the Chinese Communist Party had previously accessed the data of TikTok users on a broad scale for political purposes. The allegation, which TikTok disputes, was made in May as part of a wrongful termination case in California.

Relative to TikTok, Wechat has been a less prominent target of global governments over the past year in part because it is much more popular among Chinese speakers.

In August 2020, then-US President Donald Trump tried to ban Wechat along with TikTok by issuing executive orders. They were later blocked by an injunction. President Joe Biden eventually revoked the Trump-era executive orders.

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