The encrypted messaging service WhatsApp is once again facing trouble in Brazil. A judge in the Brazilian state of Sergipe has ordered phone companies in the country to block the app for 72 hours. The association representing phone companies in the country has already stated that the phone companies intend to obey the order and block the app. WhatsApp is given the option of paying a fine of 500,000 reais per day, or about $143,000 per day, to lift the block.
WhatsApp is targeted with this order because the government alleges that WhatsApp will not turn over data requested as part of a criminal investigation. As in previous run-ins with the Brazilian government, the company claims that, due to the encrypted nature of its service, it simply isn’t able to turn over the data being requested. “After cooperating to the full extent of our ability with the local courts, we are disappointed a judge in Sergipe decided yet again to order the block of WhatsApp in Brazil,” The company said in a statement. “This decision punishes more than 100 million Brazilians who rely on our service to communicate, run their businesses, and more, in order to force us to turn over information we repeatedly said we don’t have.”
This is not WhatsApp’s first time being blocked in the country over its failure to hand over data to law enforcement. Back in December of last year, a judge in Sao Paolo ordered the app to be blocked for 48 hours, but the order was overturned in about 12 hours after it was issued. In March of this year, a judge in Sergipe ordered the arrest of Diego Dzodan, a Facebook executive residing in the country. Because Facebook was the parent company of WhatsApp, the judge decided that Dzodan could be held accountable for WhatsApp’s failure to turn over data. The arrest order was overturned by a higher court in less than a day. Based on the fact that both those previous incidents resulted in the judges’ orders being overturned, it seems likely this order will be overturned by a higher court as well. However, it could still become a major issue for the company if it becomes the frequent target of short-lived court orders as it seems to be becoming.
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