Why Encryption Bans Won't Work: Brazil Government's WhatsApp Block Just Sends Users To Other Encrypted Platforms

from the generating-more-business-for-competitors dept

The battle against encryption being fought valiantly stupidly by the FBI, a few law enforcement figureheads, and a handful of legislators is an unwinnable war. Just ask Brazil, where the government has blocked WhatsApp repeatedly in an effort to force it to comply with demands for information. The problem is that WhatsApp now utilizes end-to-end encryption for all messages, meaning WhatsApp cannot provide any information about message content no matter how badly the Brazilian government wants it.

So Brazil blocks WhatsApp periodically and everyone wanting a secure messaging platform simply routes around it.

Several rival apps that offer encrypted messaging services reported a surge in Brazilian sign-ups, which highlights how the growing ubiquity of private messaging apps makes it hard to stop people from using them.

Both Telegram and Viber reported surges in new signups, with Telegram saying it had gained more than one million new Brazilian users. And this is happening every time the government decides it’s going to kick WhatsApp off the internet.

The same thing will happen with any of the proposed encryption bans currently making their way through various legislative entities. Bans have been proposed in both California and New York. If imposed, the only thing they’ll guarantee is that locals will be purchasing phones in another state.

And those who don’t feel comfortable with the end result of other efforts like Dianne Feinstein’s will opt to use communication platforms/cell phone service providers who haven’t caved to government demands that companies hold the encryption keys.

FBI director James Comey seems to believe he can make the world unite in the banning of encryption. This is apparently based on his abject failure to convince even a majority of US legislators that bans and backdoors are a good idea.

As long as there are options, people will seek them out. That’s the only guaranteed outcome. And the more a government tries to clamp down, the further it separates itself from any usable information, like communications metadata and access to subscriber information. Once you’ve pushed citizens to using platforms located in other jurisdictions, your powers become severely diluted. It would be better to just accept the growing shift to encryption and explore other options that don’t involve slamming your head repeatedly into an immovable force.

And, it must be pointed out that people have communicated securely for years without the government claiming it should have access to every private conversation and the contents of every mailed letter. Just because texting has replaced phone calls and letters doesn’t mean the government is somehow entitled to this new wealth of communications. Just because it’s easier to obtain in bulk doesn’t mean it’s the end of the investigative line when encryption takes that opportunity away. James Comey should stop worrying about the “smart people” in tech companies and spend more time with the “smart people” in law enforcement and find out why they’re not doing more to alleviate the situation.

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Companies: telegram, viber, whatsapp

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Comments on “Why Encryption Bans Won't Work: Brazil Government's WhatsApp Block Just Sends Users To Other Encrypted Platforms”

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DannyB (profile) says:

Download book Applied Cryptography while it is still legal to do so

Speaking of encryption bans. Let’s not forget during the clipper chip fiasco the US government, or some of its agents, wanted to ban actual knowledge.


CRC Press
ISBN: 0-8493-8523-7
October 1996, 816 pages
Fifth Printing (August 2001)

It is still for sale. (Example: Amazon $84.10)

See this copyright information before downloading:


CRC press has granted the following specific permissions for the electronic version of this book:

* Permission is granted to retrieve, print and store a single copy of this chapter for personal use. This permission does not extend to binding multiple chapters of the book, photocopying or producing copies for other than personal use of the person creating the copy, or making electronic copies available for retrieval by others without prior permission in writing from CRC Press.

Except where over-ridden by the specific permission above, the standard copyright notice from CRC Press applies to this electronic version:

* Neither this book nor any part may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, microfilming, and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

* The consent of CRC Press does not extend to copying for general distribution, for promotion, for creating new works, or for resale. Specific permission must be obtained in writing from CRC Press for such copying.

Once James Comey hears that this has been generously made available for download, for personal use, his head will explode!

mcinsand (profile) says:

encryption policies tell a lot

What a government adopts as an encryption policy speaks volumes about the government. Prohibiting encryption shows that the security is not a concern, and the government expects for citizens to be sitting ducks for people with ill intent. Requiring an encryption back door shows technological incompetence, since no person that actually understands software principles will expect a backdoor to remain under control. A government that mandates secure encryption (if there is such a government) values the citizens’ security. Encryption keeps information out of the hands of thieves, stalkers, or other potential attackers.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: encryption policies tell a lot

One thing worth mentioning about the statement you paraphrase: Princess Leia’s home planet didn’t merely fail to slip through the Empire’s fingers; they destroyed it outright.

It’s not enough to win against the authorities. You need to escape their vengeance when you contradict them, let alone win.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 encryption policies tell a lot

The guy in Tiananmen square who got ran over by the tank did not escape their vengeance, but I would say that he did win. His death made a statement that was worldwide and history making.

To a lesser extent Edward Snowden didn’t fully escape their vengeance with impunity. He gave up his girlfriend, his life, his career. But he did win. He had a profound effect. He will probably go down in history in a very positive light.

Princess Leia’s home planet may not have survived, but it probably galvanized the rebellion in a way nothing else could.

Luke lost his family. That galvanized him to join the rebellion when earlier he had been talking like “…it’s not that I like the empire, I hate it, but…” and would probably have become a storm trooper.

When Sherridan declared Babylon 5’s independence from Earth, that didn’t make him very popular with the government back on Earth.

Anonymous Coward says:

the really worrying thing about countries that are doing the same or similar thing is that they are, in the main, supposedly DEMOCRACIES! ever since the purposely engineered ‘Financial Crash’ of 2007-8, more and more countries have become governed by Conservative type governments. these are all doing very much the same thing. removing as many laws that were made to protect the people, both in and out of work, removing whatever systems that were/are in place that help citizens to remain clothed, fed and housed and introduce as many laws as possible that protect the rich, the famous and the powerful! the Planet is going to be run as a giant business before long, unless there are multiple changes to the governments that are in power at the moment and there will be almost no protection, no human rights, no after sales protection, in fact nothing other than what looks after those mentioned above and the industries, corporations, companies and businesses which will only get richer. until, that is, when there are not enough workers left!

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Dry Humor

Yes they do


and in case you are wondering the test they use is this one


The response that he received was completely out of left field. The city responded that it removed Jordan from consideration because he scored a 33 on the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test, and that to prevent frequent job turnover caused by hiring overqualified applicants the city only interviewed candidates who scored between 20 and 27.
Read more at http://thefreethoughtproject.com/court-police-departments-refuse-hire-smart/#0ac45tUpsCI3HiP8.99

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