Hours after Whatsapp was banned across Brazil, the country’s Supreme Court has scrapped the ruling. The block, triggered by Facebook’s refusal to share user data, was the fourth of its kind in 17 months.
The decision from Brazil’s Supreme Court on Tuesday came barely four hours after Rio de Janeiro Judge Daniela Barbosa suspended WhatsApp across Brazil. The ruling was in response to Facebook’s failure to surrender user data in a police investigation. The social media giant bought the Whatsapp messaging service in 2014.
Barbosa said Facebook had been issued with three requests to provide messages to police investigating a case in Duque de Caxias, north of Rio de Janeiro. The nature of the case was not immediately clear.
The Rio judge described Facebook as being irresponsible for refusing “to provide information that will be critical to the success of an investigation and later to bolster the criminal case.”
‘Scary in a democracy’
Tuesday wasn’t the first time that Facebook has clashed with Brazilian courts. Authorities have banned Whatsapp four times since February 2015, repeatedly leaving an estimated 100 million Brazilians without the messaging service. Billionaire Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the most recent ban in May as “very scary in a democracy.”
The Brazilian government also decided earlier in July to freeze 19.5 million reals ($6.11 million) in WhatsApp’s account after a regional court said the company had failed to assist in a federal investigation.
The long-running dispute between Whatsapp and Brasilia is rooted in the authorities’ insistence that they need access to communications between alleged criminalsm. Facebook argues, however, that it is protecting the privacy and freedom of communication.
Whatsapp announced in April this year that it had implemented end-to-end encryption for all communications on its network, which is used by some one billion people worldwide. The measures mean that a only the sender and recipients of messages sent on the app are able to read the texts.
The end-to-end encryption protects all text, photo, video and voice communications from eavesdropping, meaning that not only hackers and criminals are closed out but also law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and even WhatsApp itself.