WhatsApp is back on in Brazil after a brief ban

This wasn't the first time the country blocked the app

Update: On Monday a judge in Brazil ordered a 72-hour shut down to messaging app WhatsApp. Less than a day later, AFP reports that service has been restored after two court appeals by WhatsApp's parent company, Facebook.

The original ban was imposed when WhatsApp failed to provide the Brazilian court with encrypted messages pertaining to an ongoing drug-trafficking investigation. The court rejected Facebook's first appeal, stating the company was "playing down the importance of an investigation into members of a criminal organization who use the application."

The court went on to say that WhatsApp was "covering up the seriousness of the crime allegedly committed… with the argument of defending user's' right to privacy."

Facebook and WhatsApp insist they are cooperating with the investigation, but don't have the technical means for decrypting the messages.

For now, WhatsApp service is restored, but we'll have to see if the courts decide it needs to be shut down yet again, for whatever reason.

Original article below...

Brazilians have found themselves without access to WhatsApp for the next 72 hours as the popular chat app is now effectively blocked in the country due to a dispute over end-to-end encryption.

The temporary ban came after Judge Marcel Montalvao ordered WhatsApp to hand over data related to a drug investigation, but the company argued it can't access encrypted messages. It's not clear what a temporary ban will achieve, however, other than a demonstration of power.

Brazil has over 100 million active WhatsApp users who rely on the app as a main form of communication, and this block is forcing them to mask their location with virtual private networks (VPN) in order to use the service.

Workarounds

This isn't the first time Brazil has shut down WhatsApp access, either. The country threatened to block it for 48 hours last December, but restored access after only 12 hours. Brazilian police also briefly detained Facebook's Latin America vice president in March for not complying with police request to access WhatsApp messages related to another drug-trafficking case.

"After cooperating to the full extent of our ability with the local courts, we are disappointed a judge in Sergipe [Brazil's smallest state] decided yet again to order the block of WhatsApp in Brazil," a company spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Hours after WhatsApp was blocked, alternative messaging app Telegram began trending in Brazil. Telegram also offers encrypted communications, but unlike WhatsApp, it can access encrypted data if it receives a court order. Users also flocked to Apple's iMessage service, which provides end-to-end encryption as well.

The WhatsApp ban began at 2pm local time in Brazil, and cell carriers were threatened with fines of 500,000 Brazilian Real (US$142,853, £97,416, AU$186,447) per day if they don't comply with blocking the service.