May 10, 2016

Why We Should All Care about Brazil's War on WhatsApp

Andrea O'Sullivan

Feature Writer
Summary

The battle between the FBI and Apple over law enforcement access to encrypted communications may have died down a bit, but the international War on Crypto rages on.

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The battle between the FBI and Apple over law enforcement access to encrypted communications may have died down a bit, but the international War on Crypto rages on. Brazil’s recent action against the Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp is only the latest in a series of government jihads against strong online-security practices.

WhatsApp, which allows users to send SMS texts, media files, and audio messages to friends’ phones using XMPP, is the most popular cross-platform messaging system in the world. People are drawn to the platform for its ease of use, flexibility, and affordability. By February of this year, WhatsApp had accumulated over one billion users, and it shows no signs of slowing down—unless government suppression criminalizes its business model, that is. 

Notably, WhatsApp allows individuals to communicate without needing to purchase expensive unlimited phone service plans, making the messaging service especially popular in rapidly developing countries such as Brazil, India, and Mexico. These nations harbor a new global middle class that is eager to plug into the connected world through their smartphones, although perhaps not yet able to shell out for an unlimited data plan.  

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