WhatsApp Gets Reprieve After Another Brazil Ban

WhatsApp Gets Reprieve After Another Brazil Ban

WhatsApp’s delicate relationship with the Brazilian authorities took another turn for the worse on Tuesday after a Rio judge ordered telcos to block the messaging platform, before herself being overruled.

Judge Daniela Barbosa ordered the ban after claiming WhatsApp owner Facebook had shown “total disrespect for Brazilian laws” by failing to provide messages sent via the platform to help in a criminal investigation.

In reality, what the judge again failed to grasp is that WhatsApp could not provide the content of the messages as its service is fully end-to-end encrypted.

As CEO Jan Koum explained in a Facebook post shortly after the decision: “As before, millions of people are cut off from friends, loved ones, customers, and colleagues today, simply because we are being asked for information we don't have."

The decision not only put WhatsApp’s estimated 100 million Brazilian users in the dark but also came just over a fortnight before the start of the Rio Olympics.

However, just hours later it was overturned after Brazilian supreme court president, Ricardo Lewandowski, claimed the original decision was “scarcely reasonable or proportional,” according to The Guardian.

This is by no means the first time that WhatsApp and its parent company have caught the ire of the Brazilian authorities.

The service has twice been blocked before this year alone, and Facebook regional VP, Diego Dzodan, was even arrested at the beginning of March for allegedly obstructing a police investigation.

On that occasion once again the courts believed WhatsApp was refusing to co-operate when in fact it technically couldn’t access the messages requested by police in a criminal investigation.  

This is exactly the reason why the Investigatory Powers Bill, or Snoopers’ Charter, working its way through parliament seeks to force communications providers to “develop and maintain a technical capability to remove encryption that has been applied to communications or data,” in order to help police in specific investigations.

That in itself will be a major stumbling block, however, as US tech giants such as Apple and Facebook certainly would not accede to such demands. 

Source: Information Security Magazine