Nearshore Americas

WhatsApp Again Mired in Legal Issues over Encrypted Messages in Brazil

A Brazilian high court has overturned a lower-court order to ban free-messaging smartphone app WhatsApp. The higher court intervened hours after a judge in Sergipe state ordered all telecom operators to block access to WhatsApp for 72 hours.
Once again, the reason for the order is WhatsApp not handing over messages transacted between alleged criminals under investigation. This is just another episode of WhatsApp’s ongoing battle with courts in Brazil, where the messaging service is hugely popular with 100 million users.
Last December, a São Paulo state judge blocked the service for 48 hours. Then in March, another court ordered arrest of Facebook’s vice president in Latin America, Diego Dzodan, for failing to turn over WhatsApp data.
Surprisingly, the latest ruling for banning WhatsApp came from the same judge, Marcel Maia Montalvão, who had ordered for the arrest of Dzodan. The social networking giant is bearing the brunt of the court’s growing animosity with WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook.
On its part, WhatsApp is repeatedly saying that it doesn’t store its users’ messages after they’ve been delivered, so there is no way it can hand over messages to law enforcement. In other words, WhatsApp messages are encrypted, which means they exist on users’ phones but not on WhatsApp-owned servers.
“Not only do we encrypt messages end-to-end on WhatsApp to keep people’s information safe and secure, we also don’t keep your chat history on our servers,”said WhatsApp this week. “When you send an end-to-end encrypted message, no one else can read it — not even us.”
Because it encrypts its messages, many countries see WhatsApp as a threat to their security. The messaging app is facing similar threats in many countries, including India and the United Kingdom. Even the United States is reportedly considering banning encrypted messaging service providers. But none of them have not yet gone to the extent of banning the app.
Some analysts say that companies can do anything to safeguard the privacy of their customers, but they should build a back door for security agencies to check in, say analysts.

Sign up for our Nearshore Americas newsletter:

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

Add comment