Facebook and WhatsApp have been in constant wrangles with the Brazilian government over its services in the country. The result of this has been several WhatsApp outages that saw the more than 100 million people that use the app in the country unable to keep in touch with their loved ones for hours.
Now, the latest reports coming from the South American country claim that the government has frozen up to $6 million worth of Facebook assets after WhatsApp declined to share data with them. Through a court of law, the government made it clear that the result of the company’s failure to share certain pieces of information with the federal police is that the parent company – Facebook – will not be able to access a fortune of $6 million that is located within the territories of Brazil.
However, WhatsApp maintains that it is willing and happy to help in any way it can, but there is no way it can bypass the end-to-end encryption it uses on chats in a bid to give the police what they really want. The Facebook-owned app, this year April, fully rolled out end-to-end encryption that ensures only the parties directly involved in chat can see the actual proceedings of the conversation. In short, it means neither WhatsApp nor any other third party can intercept the chats, which is basically what the Brazilian government is demanding from Facebook.
WhatsApp has more than a billion users from all over the world. The fact that governments and security agencies want some special backdoors that can allow them easily tap communications on the service is not something CEO and co-founder Jan Koum wants to hear of. According to him, this will be compromising the privacy and security of all users of the app, no matter where.
It is not just in Brazil where tech companies are having it rough with law enforcers. The U.S. has seen a similar case with respect to Apple and the FBI. Unlike in the case of WhatsApp and Facebook where the Brazilian government has frozen their assets, the FBI found their way around Apple’s encryption, something that has sent the iPhone maker back to the drawing board.