The threat of traceability in Brazil and how it erodes privacy
The Brazilian National Congress is actively considering legislation that would force companies to add a permanent identity stamp to the private messages people send. The proposal is called “traceability.”
If passed, private messaging services like WhatsApp would have to trace who-said-what and who-shared-what for billions of messages sent every day. The proposal inverts law enforcement investigations by forcing private companies to turn over the names of people who say or share something. This could include information about people who forwarded along something just to comment about it.
As we conduct more of our lives online - especially in the middle of this pandemic - protecting our private conversations with friends, family, doctors and clients is more important than ever. That is why we built end-to-end encryption into our app. This security technology protects our users by making sure only the sender and the people they are talking to can see the content of their messages, not criminals, not hackers, not authoritarian governments, and not even WhatsApp.
Traceability is a direct threat to the ability for people to communicate privately and securely. If adopted, Brazil would be a true outlier on the global stage — no other democratic country in the world mandates tracing of private messages. We’ve joined 50 organizations in opposing this proposal and defending freedom of expression, communication, privacy, and digital rights in Brazil and around the world.
In this video, made in collaboration between WhatsApp and SaferNet, we explain the potential privacy and free speech implications of traceability. It is important to understand that in order to trace any messages, we must trace them all.
Viral misinformation is a widespread societal problem that exists in every form of communications, including email, letters and in-person conversations. Weakening privacy for all and putting innocent people at risk is not the solution. WhatsApp has helped tackle misinformation through product changes to reduce bulk and viral messaging, which have yielded a 70% decrease in highly forwarded messages on WhatsApp, and introducing a way to double check forwarded messages by tapping a magnifying glass button in the chat. We will continue to explore impactful changes as well as empowering and educating our users while maintaining people’s privacy and security.
10 myths and facts about traceability can be found here, and more information about traceability can be found below:
- Mass Surveillance, Estadão
- Fake news bill is authoritarian and institutes a kind of exceptional internet, Folha De S. Paulo
- Constant monitoring: Message tracking to deal with fake news is mass surveillance, Folha De S. Paulo
- Ten reasons to reject the article 10 from the fake news tracking project, Folha De S. Paulo
- FAQ: Why Brazil’s Plan to Mandate Traceability in Private Messaging Apps Will Break User’s Expectation of Privacy and Security, EFF
- “Track the viral?”: InternetLab launches new document on privacy risks in the regulation of messaging applications, InternetLab
- Technical Note on Article 10 of Bill no. 2630/2020 - Private Messaging Applications Traceability, Instituto de Pesquisa em Direito e Tecnologia do Recife
- 87% of Brazilians are against message tracking in app, DataFolha
- It is necessary to clarify what WhatsApp is in a debate on the fake news bill, Folha De S. Paulo
- A way out of the debate on traceability in the Fake News PL, Consultor Juridico