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Brazil freezes Facebook funding over WhatsApp court dispute

A court in Brazil has prevented Facebook from accessing funding worth BRL19.5 million ($6.1 million) over a security dispute with WhatsApp.

The OTT messaging service has twice been temporarily suspended in Brazil after failing to provide the government with messages sent by the defendants in drugs cases. WhatsApp has argued that its messages are encrypted end-to-end and not stored on its servers; the Brazilian government countered that the information in the messages could help to solve the cases.

The total sum is the same amount that WhatsApp has accrued in fines for non-compliance across the past five months. Facebook’s assets have been frozen as it is the owner of WhatsApp, which has no bank accounts in Brazil.

The Brazilian federal police have claimed that WhatsApp repeatedly ignored orders to surrender the message history of users believed to be part of an international cocaine smuggling cartel that has been under investigation since January.

If the information contained within these messages is not released, the police argue that it will be far more difficult to out other members of the cartel and to establish connections between suspects captured in raids and suspected accomplices apprehended in Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Spain.

In April, WhatsApp debuted end-to-end encryption for all data sent via the app. The previous bans it faced in Brazil both lasted less than 48 hours and were met with public outcry.

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