Brazilian judge orders another WhatsApp block over message encryption

WhatsApp uses end-to-end encrypted messages, which the company can't decrypt.

(Image: CNET/CBS Interactive)

Third time lucky?

A Brazilian judge has ordered the country's leading cell carriers to block access to WhatsApp for failing to comply with an order to turn over end-to-end encrypted messages.

Reuters reports that Judge Daniela Barbosa Assunção de Souza said the order, thought to affect about 100 million users in the country, will only be lifted once Facebook, which owns the service, turns over messages in a confidential court case.

But because messages are end-to-end encrypted, not even WhatsApp or Facebook can intercept the messages.

Cell companies are subject to daily fines of R$50,000 (about $15,300) if they do not block access to the service.

When this happened previously, Facebook's chief in the country Diego Dzodan was detained for failing to comply with a judge's order.

A WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement that the company wants to see the block lifted "as soon as possible."

"In recent months, people from all across Brazil have rejected judicial blocks of services like WhatsApp. Indiscriminate steps like these threaten people's ability to communicate, to run their businesses, and to live their lives. "

"As we've said in the past, we cannot share information we don't have access to," the spokesperson said.