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Cybersecurity & Standards, Free Expression, Government Surveillance

Overreaching Judicial Order Blocks WhatsApp in Brazil

The Center for Democracy & Technology released this statement in response to an order issued by a judge in Brazil to immediately and indefinitely block access to the popular WhatsApp end-to-end encrypted messaging service in Brazil:

“Over 100 million Brazilians rely on WhatsApp to communicate with friends and family and to do business in a private, secure manner,” said Jadzia Butler, Privacy, Surveillance & Security Fellow at CDT. “It is judicial overreach and a violation of free expression rights to deprive Brazilians of their preferred communications channel, and CDT applauds WhatsApp for continuing to provide a secure means of communication to its billions of users worldwide.”

For each day that it does not comply with the judicial order, WhatsApp faces fines of 50,000 reais (about $15,300). The order, which was issued in a criminal case in which WhatsApp messages are being sought, comes after two similar rulings in Brazil blocking access to WhatsApp in December and May, each of which was overturned after a short time. A executive for WhatsApp’s parent company, Facebook, was also arrested in Brazil in March due to a dispute over law enforcement access to data.

Update: Later on Tuesday, Brazil’s top court overturned the ruling, with Federal Supreme Court President Ricardo Lewandowski calling the suspension of service “scarcely reasonable or proportional”.