Brazilian judge orders indefinite block of WhatsApp, affecting millions of users

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A Brazilian judge on Tuesday ordered the country's five cellular carriers to block access to Facebook's WhatsApp indefinitely, disrupting access to the popular chat/VoIP app for tens of millions of people.

The reason for the order is being kept secret, other than the fact that the court is demanding access to unspecified data for an investigation, according to Reuters. Brazil's Globo added that Facebook is being required to pay R$50,000 ($15,273) per day while it's in violation.

The block is the third leveled against WhatsApp in Brazil, which has refused to hand over conversation data in at least two legal investigations, both of them involving drug trafficking. Today's court action is the most severe however, given the indefinite timeframe. In March Facebook's Latin American VP, Diego Dzodan, was briefly arrested.

WhatsApp is believed to have 100 million or more users in Brazil, many of whom use it to circumvent the steep fees local cellular carriers charge.

In its defense, WhatsApp has insisted that it can't actually provide requested data, since it doesn't save users' messages, which are encrypted anyway.

Tech companies have run into mounting conflicts with government officials over encryption. While companies like Apple have argued that encryption is important on moral, profit, and security grounds, people in law enforcement and spy agencies have complained about communications "going dark," and warned that criminals like kidnappers and terrorists can use it to hide their actions.


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