Significantly earlier than expected, the 72-hour-barrier against WhatsApp was abolished in Brazil. After about 26 hours the 100 million Brazilians who use this messenger could access to their accounts again. But this wasn’t the first time that the Brazilian Justice blocked the US-American short message service. Already in December 2015, Brazilian users had to manage one day without WhatsApp. Mark Zuckerberg called last year’s decision a “sad day” for Brazil. As a result of that blockade around 1.5 million Brazilians decided to use telegram messenger, a direct competitor of WhatsApp.
Investigationwise reasons for the WhatsApp blockade
The current blockade was enforced by the judge Marcel Maia Montalvão in the city Lagarto (Sergipe) in the North-East of Brazil. He wants to get full access to the chat messages sent via WhatsApp in the criminal case number 201 655 000 183 which is against the organized drug trade in the city. In a leading case, which is about armed robbery with lethal consequence, the investigators still need important evidence that is suspected in the sent WhatsApp messages. The alleged perpetrators have already deleted those messages and refuse to cooperate with the police. The only way which was reasonable to the justice in Lagarto on Monday morning to stop the organized crime was blocking the US short message service and enforcing the cooperation and access to the chat logs.
Another reason for the 72-hour blockade was, as experts say, the recent discussion about the end-to-end encryption of WhatsApp. Due to this implementation, it isn’t even possible for the company itself to access the information and messages of the users. What constitutes a strengthening of data protection for the private people, prevents an immense problem for the Brazilian police in its investigative work, because WhatsApp is one of the main communication services in the Latin American country.
WhatsApp blockade is within the law
On Monday morning, the judges in Lagarto decided that according to the law number 12,965/14, also known as the Marco Civil Internet, a 72-hour-blockade is legal. The judges grounded their decision on the fact that Facebook, as the parent company of WhatsApp, is in charge to provide information which is against the Brazilian law and helps to detect criminal activity. They also emphasized that all published data will be strictly confidential and under the protection of privacy.
The five largest phone operator in the country, including Vivo, Claro and Nextel, have been requested by the judges to comply the blockade. In case of refusal the companies will be threaten with a fine of 500,000 reais (about 111,000 euros) per day.
WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum promptly responded to the judges’ decision. For him the Brazilian WhatsApp users are the real victims of this dispute:
“Yet again millions of innocent Brazilians are being punished because a court wants WhatsApp to turn over information we repeatedly said we don’t have.”
Not the first fight with Facebook
In March there was a dispute between the Brazilian government and Facebook which led into the arrest of Diego Dzodan. The Latin American vice-president of Facebook was accused to defy against a court order and to refuse the access to important WhatsApp logs on purpose. The indictment was quashed after a few hours due to a lack of evidence. WhatsApp justified the non-publication of the data with the data protection act.
In the current case, there won’t be an agreement between the Brazilian Justice and the short message service. Finally, Facebook stated on Monday afternoon after the announcement of the blockade that even the employees of the US-American company don’t have any information about the drug cartels and will never have access to it because of the end-to-end encryption.