Facebook and Brazil go for another round as the government protests encrypted chats
Some 100 million WhatsApp users in the country will have to search for alternatives over the next few days after WhatsApp’s refusal to cooperate with a criminal investigation, claiming that it has no access to the data of the conversations
Following the issuance of a court order, hundreds of millions of WhatsApp messaging application users in Brazil were disconnected from the service on Monday for a three day suspension of the popular messaging app. This decision comes after a standoff in 2013 when the Brazilian police were investigating a criminal case involving drug activity and sought to use transcripts of conversations made using this service, but due to the application’s encryption method, the company claims that they were unable to assist in the request. As a result, a judge from the Brazilian district of Sergipe ordered the local telecom providers to block the service.
The fourth largest market in the world
Whatsapp is the most popular messaging community in Brazil, the country considered to be the fourth largest market in the world for smartphones. According to Facebook, about half of the 200 million residents in the country regularly use the free text messaging and voice calling service, which means that many of the country’s citizens will have to find alternatives in order to satisfy their messaging needs. It seems that the party that gained the most from this story is competing application, Telegram, which has become a hot topic on Twitter. This app also provides encrypted messaging services, but unlike Whatsapp, it is able to reach the conversation sent through their Server-client data in case a court order is given. However their Secret Chats feature is supposedly using client-client encryption that they are unable to access.
The interesting thing is that this is the second time in six months in which the chat service, owned by Facebook, has been blocked in Brazil. In December 2015, a judge called to block the service in the country for two days,after his request for cooperation in an investigation was rejected, but the ruling was cancelled the next day. Last March, a senior official at Facebook was jailed after he refused to provide relevant information for a narcotics investigation, but was again released the next day when the case was concluded.
Founder of Whatsapp Jan Koum mentioned the case on his own personal Facebook account, and wrote:
Koum issued an update on Wednesday that Whatsapp was back on again in Brazil, reiterating his dedication to user security and privacy: