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After Third WhatsApp Shutdown, Brazil Plans to Draft Digital Data Bill

July 20, 2016, 12:50 PM UTC
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People are seen as silhouettes as they check mobile devices whilst standing against an illuminated wall bearing WhatsApp Inc's logo in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. WhatsApp Inc. offers a cross-platform mobile messaging application that allows users to exchange messages. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Chris Ratcliffe—Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Brazilian government plans to draft a bill regulating judicial access to digital data in criminal investigations, following the third nationwide court-mandated shutdown of the popular WhatsApp messaging service since December, newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo reported Wednesday.

According to Estado, Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes said the bill should provide a framework for cooperation with authorities without depriving about 100 million users of the popular Facebook (FB) messaging service.

Moraes announced the plan after meeting with Rodrigo Maia, the speaker of the lower house, to discuss the issue Tuesday, Estado said.

Also at the meeting, Maia vowed to speed up the discussion of and voting on bills aimed at protecting digital data or limiting potential shutdowns of chat apps, Estado reported.

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The ministry’s and lower house’s media offices did not immediately answer calls seeking confirmation of the report.

On Tuesday, a Rio de Janeiro state-based judge ordered Brazil’s five wireless carriers to block WhatsApp as it failed to turn over data requested by authorities in a criminal probe. The Federal Supreme Court scrapped the order hours later.

The order had left about 100 million Brazilian users without access to WhatsApp for hours Tuesday afternoon.

According to the office of Brazil’s attorney general, judges who suspend WhatsApp are incorrectly interpreting a 2014 law meant to update the legal framework for the Internet. Still, judges frustrated with the modern limits of wiretaps in drug-trafficking probes have shut down the service and even briefly jailed a senior Facebook executive in March.