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Brazil Briefly Shuts Down WhatsApp Services Over Data Dispute


FILE - WhatsApp and Facebook app icons on a smartphone in New York.
FILE - WhatsApp and Facebook app icons on a smartphone in New York.

Brazil briefly shut down services by the instant messaging service WhatsApp Tuesday in a dispute over a police investigation, but the nation's top court overturned the move within hours.

A Brazilian judge ordered the shutdown in Brazil after Facebook, WhatsApp's parent company, refused to assist authorities in a police investigation by providing encrypted messages pertaining to the case.

The order targeted Brazil's wireless carriers, instructing them not to carry data for WhatsApp. Those that did not comply faced a penalty of about $15,000.

WhatsApp founder Jan Koum released a statement on his Facebook page calling the shutdown "shocking," given that similar blocks were ordered and overturned twice in the past seven months.

"History is repeating itself," he said. "As before, millions of people are cut off from friends, loved ones, customers and colleagues today, simply because we are being asked for information we don't have."

WhatsApp says its end-to-end encryption ensures it does not have access to users' personal messages.

After the blackout had been in effect for a few hours, raising a public outcry, a federal judge reversed the decision, saying the judge in the lower court made a decision that seemed "scarcely reasonable or proportional" in the present case.