Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:
1. Brazilian judge angry at WhatsApp tries to shut it down for the whole country. The over 100 million Brazilian users of WhatsApp had a rough week. On Monday, a Brazilian judge in Sergipe state ordered the country’s telecommunications carriers to block access to the service for seventy-two hours as punishment for WhatsApp’s failure to comply with his order. The judge ordered the Facebook-owned company to turn over decrypted text messages related to a criminal investigation. WhatsApp can’t comply with the request as its app provides end-to-end encryption, making text messages and calls only decipherable to a message’s sender and recipient. Brazilians took to Twitter to express their outrage and signed up for rival services, such as Viber and Telegram. The ban was lifted approximately twenty-four hours later after an appellate judge overturned it. Although the ban was disruptive, the fact that it was overturned quickly probably has to do with the effectiveness of Brazil’s Internet law, the Marco Civil, which Brazilian legal expert Ronaldo Lemos explained in Net Politics last year.
2. Man fails to prove he’s bitcoin founder, because math. Much like WhatsApp users of Brazil, Australian Craig Wright also had a rough week. Wright gave interviews to the BBC and The Economist claiming that he was Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous inventor of bitcoin. He tried to prove he was Nakamoto by digitally signing a speech by Jean-Paul Sartre with a cryptographic key known to have been used by Satoshi. Though some bought it, doubts soon surfaced and Wright replaced the proof posted on his site with an eccentric message saying he didn’t want to prove himself any further. Despite Wright’s strange behavior, there’s actually some light at the end of the tunnel. This whole episode demonstrates the brilliance of the blockchain, a public decentralized ledger that allows two parties to complete a financial transaction without relying on a trusted third party. As computer security expert Rob Graham shows in this post, anyone with a computer can verify that Wright is not Satoshi (and could verify the real Satoshi, if he ever reappears). This reliance on a decentralized registry and mathematical proof, rather than the word of some authoritative body—which could potentially be compromised—is why the financial industry is taking such a keen interest in blockchain technology.
3. Federal investigators get better hacking warrants. The Supreme Court announced changes last week to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which would allow courts to issue warrants allowing law enforcement officials to hack computers outside the courts’ jurisdiction if the computers’ physical location has been concealed. Previously, investigators could only seize and search computers within their jurisdiction. The Department of Justice, in requesting the rules change, cited cases where suspected criminals used Tor to mask their computer’s address. Privacy and civil liberties advocates have critiqued the change, and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has promised to fight the revision in Congress.
4. Countries with similar views on Internet policy agree to promote them. Ministers responsible for technology and communications from the Group of Seven (G7) issued a "Charter for the Digitally Connected World" and a communiqué at the end of their meeting in Takamatsu, Japan. The charter reaffirms the G7’s commitment to developing digital policies that promote and protect human rights, promote and protect the free flow of information, support a multistakeholder approach to policymaking and strengthen digital connectivity for all. These principles largely repeat what the G7 countries have agreed to elsewhere, such as in the OECD principles for Internet policymaking and the WSIS+10 outcome document.