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Brazilian judge denies WhatsApp’s appeal against 72-hour block

TechCrunch TechCrunch 3/05/2016 Natasha Lomas

A Brazilian judge has denied an injunction against a countrywide ban filed by messaging app WhatsApp, according to local media reports — rejecting the latter’s arguments to try to overturn the block, and asserting that users’ rights to privacy are in conflict with the right to public safety and with state authorities’ ability to freely investigate crime.

The judge also flagged up the existence of various rival messaging apps that offer Brazilians alternatives to use during the “unpopular” block.

WhatsApp is thought to have some 100 million users in Brazil. The app passed one billion monthly users globally, back in February.

Commenting on the latest development a WhatsApp spokesman told TechCrunch: “We’re continuing to appeal the block.”

Yesterday another Brazilian judge ordered telcos in the country to block access to the messaging app for 72 hours, following a dispute over access to encrypted data. WhatsApp has been ordered to turn over chat records related to a drugs investigation.

However it has argued it cannot access the chats in an unencrypted form — and therefore cannot provide the data being asked of it by the court. Last month the company completed a lengthy rollout of end-to-end encryption across its service.

This is just the latest clash between WhatsApp and Brazilian authorities, with another court-ordered ban last December. That 48-hour ban was lifted by another judge after 12 hours.

WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook’s vice president for Latin America, Diego Dzodan, was also arrested in March on a court order, again relating to access to WhatsApp data.

It is also just the latest clash between security services and technology companies generally, over their use of encryption. Earlier this year, for example, Apple was engaged in a sustained and public battle in the US with the FBI over access to data on an encrypted iPhone. In the end the FBI paid a third party to hack the device, calling the legal dogs off.

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