By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – A Brazilian judge in the Northeast state of Sergipe ordered the nationwide suspension of the popular messaging service, Whatsapp, for 72 hours, due to the company’s failure to turn over data which the courts say are important for a current drug trafficking investigation. The decision is expected to affect more than one hundred million Brazilians who use the service on a daily basis.
“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,” said co-founder and CEO of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, on his facebook account Monday.
Koum added, “While we are working to get WhatsApp back up and running as soon as possible, we have no intention of compromising the security of our billion users around the world.”
According to Koum, the messages sent across by WhatsApp are encrypted and not even company officials are able to read them. “When you send an end-to-end encrypted message, no one else can read it – not even us.”
The WhatsApp service is owned by Facebook and extremely popular in Brazil. According to the courts, cellular phone operators that do not abide by the ruling will be fined R$500,000 per day.
This is not the first time the service has sanctions from Brazil’s judicial system. A little over two months ago, the same judge, Marcel Montalvão, issued an arrest warrant for Facebook’s Vice President for Latin America, Diego Dzodan, for failing to hand over the messages for the same investigation.
Dzodan was detained for a day before a superior court annulled the warrant. In December of 2015 a São Paulo judge also ordered the suspension of the service for 48 hours due to another refusal of the company to hand over messages in another criminal investigation. The suspension, however, was lifted after twelve hours.