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Australia’s Defence department bans messaging app WeChat – ANITH
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Australia’s Defence department bans messaging app WeChat

Australia’s Defence department bans messaging app WeChat


Facebook is allowed. WeChat is not.

Image: HOW HWEE YOUNG/EPA/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Last month, U.S. intelligence agencies weren’t so into the idea of people using Chinese phones.

The heads of the CIA, FBI and NSA told a Senate committee in February they didn’t recommend products or services by China’s Huawei or ZTE be used by Americans, concerned about companies or entities becoming “beholden to foreign governments.”

Now, in Australia, that suspicion has seemingly extended to Chinese apps. Messaging platform WeChat has reportedly been banned from being installed on phones belonging to the country’s Department of Defence, according to the Australian Financial Review.

“Defence does not provide or support the use of unauthorised software, including the WeChat social media application, on Defence mobile devices,” a Defence spokesperson told the newspaper. Limited use of Facebook is reportedly allowed though.

It comes amid concerns of heightened Chinese espionage activities within the country, although Defence didn’t specify why it banned WeChat, owned by internet company Tencent. Mashable has contacted the department for comment.

Back in December, India’s Defence Ministry instructed its armed forces to uninstall WeChat, one of 42 apps it listed, after reporting a number of the apps had “spyware or other malicious ware.” 

“Use of these apps by our force personnel can be detrimental to data security having implications on the force and national security,” read a memo published by the Indian Express.

In a 2016 report, Amnesty International ranked WeChat and other Tencent apps lowest in a privacy assessment of popular messaging apps.

WeChat scored zero of 100, due to its lack of end-to-end encryption and failure to recognise threats or protect freedom of expression. The app remains dominant in China, however, and is set to be integrated with the nation’s electronic ID system.

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Anith Gopal
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