Brazil temporarily suspends Whatsapp service

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Brazil temporarily suspended the WhatsApp social media service after a judge said the company had failed to hand over information requested in a criminal investigation.

This is the third time, in two years, that the social media service would be suspended in the country and it lasted for a few hours, affecting millions of users.

The nationwide blockage was lifted by Supreme Court judge Ricardo Lewandowski, describing the suspension as disproportionate.

WhatsApp said they did not have access to the details requested for in the criminal investigation.

Prior to the recent suspension, a previous one happened in May and forced 100 million people to turn to alternative services, using population in a country with some of the world’s highest mobile phone charges.

In March, a Facebook executive was detained overnight for failing to comply with an attempt to block WhatsApp.

A WhatsApp spokesperson had said: “As we’ve said in the past we cannot share information we don’t have access to.

“Indiscriminate steps like these threaten people’s ability to communicate, to run their businesses, and to live their lives.”

Correspondents said it was the latest clash in a battle between tech firms and judicial systems over how to collaborate in criminal investigations without compromising individual freedoms – like in the dispute between Apple and the FBI over access to the phone of the San Bernardino gunman.

Twitter users responded with frustration and, in many cases, with humour.

The end-to-end encryption, which was introduced by WhatsApp in April, is a key advantage touted.

In its website’s frequently asked questions, it says : “Privacy and security is in our DNA, which is why we have end-to-end encryption in the latest versions of our app… [This] ensures only you and the person you’re communicating with can read what is sent, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp.”

Technology commentators suggest the regular interruptions to service could dent WhatsApp’s popularity.

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