A Brazilian Judge has ordered mobile providers to block the popular messaging app, WhatsApp, which is owned by social network giant, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB). The judge ordered the block to take effect for 72 hours in an effort to try and force Facebook to turn over user data.
The block is a serious affair considering that more than 100 million Brazilians use the service. Judge Marcel Montalvao of the northeastern state of Sergipe gave the order for the ban though he did not reveal the reason for the decision. The ban was initiated throughout the whole country on Monday afternoon.
Speculation about the block
It is believed that the WhatsApp block is tied to ongoing investigations related to drug trafficking. Judge Montalvao had issued an arrest order for the Vice President of Facebook in Latin America in March. The order was issued because the company had refused to give out customer data of WhatsApp’s users, who were suspected to be involved in drug trafficking.
A different court had ordered a 48-hour ban on WhatsApp in December last year after failure to comply with investigations. However, a higher court came to the aid of the company by reversing the decision.
It is thus the second time that the government has clamped down on users of the messaging service in the country. One of the company’s spokespersons released a statement claiming that the firm had cooperated to the best of its ability with the courts and was disappointed with the verdict.
The statement also noted that the judicial decision will cause inconvenience to more than 100 million Brazilians who use the service for communication purposes as well as running their businesses among other things. The company claims that it does not have the information that the government is demanding.
WhatsApp co-founder and CEO stated that the company encrypts messages to ensure user privacy, but it does not keep chat history on its servers. The company, therefore, does not have access to the messages because they are end-to-end encrypted.