court ruling increases pressure to open WhatsApp data in BrazilInstead of asking for the content of conversations or the identity of users judge determines that WhatsApp disable encryption which ensures the confidentiality of messages.
The decision of a judge of Duque de Caxias (RJ) which caused WhatsApp lock in Brazil for five hours on Tuesday (19) He opened a new front for the authorities to try to force the owners of the messaging application to cooperate with criminal investigations in the country.
This was the third time that access to the tool has been blocked in Brazil since last year. The service, which is about 100 million users in the country, It was released in the evening by the President of STF (Supreme Court), Ricardo Lewandowski, which considered the disproportionate blockade.
Instead of asking for the content of conversations or the identity of users, as happened in previous cases, Judge Daniela Barbosa de Souza determined that WhatsApp disable encryption which ensures the confidentiality of messages and allow the monitoring of conversations of suspects in real time by researchers.
The decision responded to a request from the 62nd Civil Police Precinct, investigating a criminal organization in Duque de Caxias. The judge had already sent three offices to Facebook, application owner, so that the order was fulfilled. But the company refused to meet the determination, and that's why the judge ordered block service.
“Exchanged messages should be forwarded in real time (as it is with the interception of telephone conversations), implemented before the encryption”, she wrote, the decision this Tuesday.
We previous cases, WhatsApp argued that could not provide the content of the talks and other information because the system does not store on their servers. Recently, the application has adopted a stronger encryption system, which scrambles the content of messages and only allows participants of each conversation have access to it.
To comply with the decision of Judge Daniela, the company would have to change the system and remove the guaranteed protection to users under investigation. “The Brazil innovates in this case, sadly, to ask the company to create a vulnerability in your encryption”, says lawyer Carlos Affonso Souza, director of the Institute for Technology and Society.
As we previous cases, the company must resort to higher instances not to be forced to do so. Even if the slowness of Justice help WhatsApp save time, decisions as the judge Daniela increase pressure on the company in the country.
O professor Marcos Simplicio Junior, Poli-USP, which analyzed the technical specifications of the application security system, It states that the company could have access to user conversations in the future to alter the encryption keys. But this would circumvent the system it had created to protect people who use the service.
Generally, technology companies are against open gaps such in their security systems, citing technical difficulties or do not make them vulnerable to hacking or malicious governments.
“Many authorities argue that encryption serves as a shield for criminals, but it exists to avoid them, preventing, for example, the leakage of personal information”, says Francisco Cruz, the research center Internet Lab. “The change could jeopardize the application and allow access by unauthorized agents.”