The US isn’t the only country in the middle of a ‘privacy vs national security’ debate right now. In Brazil, authorities are going a step further than their American counterparts; police in Sao Paulo have just detained Facebook’s regional vice president, Diego Dzodan, for failing to provide information related to a WhatsApp account.
“In the face of repeated non-compliance, the judge Marcel Maia ordered the arrest of a representative of the company in Brazil, Mr Diego Dzodan for obstructing the police investigation,” a court spokesman wrote in a statement.
Facebook, the owner of WhatsApp, had been ordered for over a month to release data in connection with a drug trafficking investigation that Brazilian authorities are conducting.
While precise details of the case are unclear, court officials say that the arrest was a last resort after the judge issued fines of 1 million reais ($250,000) to compel Facebook to provide the WhatsApp information.
WhatsApp has already felt the consequences of not following the country's judicial demands; in December, the messaging app was banned for 48 hours in Brazil at the behest of a Sao Bernardo do Campo judge for failing to comply with two court orders to share information. The suspension lasted about 12 hours before the ban was overturned by an appeals court.
Facebook says that WhatsApp operates independently from the social media company and it doesn’t even have any staff in Brazil, so Dzodan should not be held responsible. The only Facebook office in the country is a sales office, which has no access to WhatsApp user information.
WhatsApp says that as it does not store users’ messages, it cannot give Brazilian authorities data it doesn’t have. Moreover, CEO Jan Koum said earlier this year that the company is working on end-to-end encryption tools to increase user security.
Facebook is understandably upset by the authorities' actions. "We're disappointed with the extreme and disproportionate measure of having a Facebook executive escorted to a police station in connection with a case involving WhatsApp, which operates separately from Facebook," a spokesman said. "Facebook has always been and will be available to address any questions Brazilian authorities may have."