Brazil Shuts Down WhatsApp in Privacy Row

A regional judge has ordered all telephone operators in Brazil to block WhatsApp, the popular messaging app owned by Facebook.

The judge is censuring the service for failing to turn over data as part of an ongoing drug trafficking investigation. According to CNN, starting about 2 p.m., the app ceased to function.

"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," Jan Koum, CEO and co-founder of the messaging service, posted a statement on his Facebook page. "Not only do we encrypt messages end-to-end on WhatsApp to keep people's information safe and secure, we also don't keep your chat history on our servers. When you send an end-to-end encrypted message, no one else can read it—not even us."

Kevin Bocek, Chief Security Strategist, Venafi, told Infosecurity that the action in Brazil to shutdown WhatsApp is part of a global trend to hijack privacy and trust online.

“Governments around the world are taking target practice at the foundations of cybersecurity and trust on the Internet: the cryptographic keys and digital certificates,” he said. “Every business is a WhatsApp, every consumer a target. In the US we’ve seen court orders against Apple to use its ‘god’ key to defeat iPhone defense. In the UK, we’ve seen the Snooper’s Charter seeking to extend law enforcement powers to demand keys and introduce vulnerabilities. Just like Whatsapp, all UK businesses (and government) use keys and certificates throughout—without [which] we couldn’t have online banking, shopping, cloud data centers, and mobile apps we rely on every day. Every business is a WhatsApp and it is time to stand up and stop government overreach to hijack privacy and trust online."

Photo © denizen/

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