Facebook’s WhatsApp has had quite a rough time with Brazilian authorities this year. These issues started creeping in when the chat app introduced end-to-end encryption to its messaging and calling services.
The latest case involves a Brazilian judge serving telephone companies with a court order to shut down any access to WhatsApp in the entire country. This came as a result of Facebook declining to provide the court with what it needed – access to chat logs related to an ongoing criminal case. According to Facebook, end-to-end encrypted messages cannot be accessed by anyone, including themselves, but this is something that Brazilian judges aren’t interested in hearing.
The good side of the story is that the ban was lifted a few hours later courtesy of the Supreme Court. The question that is left lingering in people’s heads is that was the lower court right in what it did?
This is not the first time WhatsApp has been blocked in the giant South American country. In a recent case that took place in May, the court order directed that the block will go on for 72 hours pending the provision of the necessary data by Facebook. However, restoring access to the app has typically been quicker. Unlike the previous case where the court asked carriers to block WhatsApp access for 72 hours, the latest incidence had directed that the block will go on indefinitely. However, a higher court intervened a few hours later and things are now back to normal.
“We are happy that Brazilians can access WhatsApp again,” a company spokesperson noted. The company also hopes that this will not repeat in the near or distant future.
Apparently, the judge, Daniela Barbosa, in the case was not happy with how WhatsApp responded to a court request to provide them with the necessary data to help in the criminal investigation. The judge said that Facebook and co are treating Brazil as it were a “banana republic.” In addition, Barbosa was not happy with the fact that WhatsApp responded to a court request via email and in English yet this was not the official language of Brazil.
Despite everything, the Supreme Court overruled this decision by a magistrates’ court, something that could make it even more difficult for these judges to take care of WhatsApp cases in future. In short, the top court in the country is OK with using encrypted apps, which is welcome news for Facebook since it is currently testing end-to-end encryption on Messenger in Brazil and other regions.
WhatsApp has more than 100 million users in Brazil alone, which kind of makes blocking access to its services a really big deal.
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