Canada on Monday banned popular Chinese messaging app WeChat and Russian platform Kaspersky from government smartphones and other mobile devices, citing privacy and security risks.
The suite of applications would be immediately removed from government-issued devices and users will be blocked from downloading them in the future, said a statement.
Treasury Board President Anita Anand, who oversees Canada’s federal public service, said the nation’s chief information officer determined the apps “present an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.”
No breaches have been detected but the platforms’ data collection methods on mobile devices, she added, “provide considerable access to the device’s contents.”
“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,” Anand concluded.
Beijing said on Tuesday that Canada’s decision had been taken “without any actual evidence.”
“The Canadian government has issued a ban targeting Chinese companies under the guise of maintaining data security,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.
“China firmly opposes this,” he added.
The move comes after Ottawa in February also banned TikTok — a platform owned by ByteDance in China — on government devices.
Oracle last year was tapped to store all TikTok data from US users after President Joe Biden revoked his predecessor Donald Trump‘s executive orders seeking to ban TikTok and WeChat from US markets on national security concerns.
Relations between Ottawa and Beijing — already strained over tit-for-tat detentions of a Huawei senior executive and two Canadian nationals in December 2018 — hit a new low earlier this year.
Ottawa accused Beijing of meddling in Canadian elections and the attempted intimidation of MPs that led to the expulsion of a Chinese diplomat in May.
Last week, the Canadian government warned of a “Spamouflage” disinformation campaign linked to China that used waves of online posts and deepfake videos manipulated to try to disparage and discredit Canadian lawmakers, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
A public inquiry into foreign interference accusations — which China has rejected — kicked off in September.