As predicted, it didn’t take very long for WhatsApp to be restored in Brazil after being banned by a judge in Rio de Janeiro yesterday. The judge’s order to mobile phone carriers in Brazil was overturned by Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court a few hours later, bringing WhatsApp back to the masses nearly as fast as it was restored the last two times something like this happened.
WhatsApp being banned in Brazil is becoming a regular occurrence, it would appear. It was ordered to be banned back in May and in December 2015, coming back online shortly afterward both times. This time around, WhatsApp was banned when it and parent company Facebook claimed they couldn’t turn over user data in a confidential criminal case. When WhatsApp and Facebook failed to obey the order to deliver the data, Judge Daniela Barbosa Assunção de Souza ordered the five major carriers in Brazil to ban access to the app, saying the ban would be lifted when the data was given up.
Of course, WhatsApp maintained the entire time that it does not have access to the data in question and therefore can’t turn over anything. WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption for all conversations and calls between users, meaning it can’t listen in on its users’ conversations. WhatsApp also claims that it doesn’t store any user data on its server, making it impossible to comply with the order.
While the Brazilian attorney general released a statement supporting WhatsApp, it seems that this is becoming a common thing in the country. Judges banning WhatsApp out of frustration or because they don’t understand what end-to-end encryption is causes big problems for WhatsApp and its users, which total more than 100 million across Brazil. You’d hope that judges wouldn’t be so quick to swing the banhammer after a third incident where these bans are overturned or lifted after such a short amount of time, but we wouldn’t be shocked to hear of a similar order popping up in couple of months.