Brazil Arrests Facebook Exec Because Company Refuses To Reveal Info On Whatsapp Users

from the arrested-for-not-doing-the-impossible dept

Back in December, we noted that, somewhat ridiculously, all of the super popular Whatsapp service (owned by Facebook) was blocked in Brazil, because Facebook refused to reveal information on Whatsapp users as part of a drug trafficking investigation. While the court only allowed the block to last for a little while, apparently things have escalated, with a senior Facebook exec now being arrested for failing to cooperate in this case:

Facebook?s vice president for Latin America has been arrested on his way to work in S?o Paulo, Brazil. Federal police picked up Diego Dzodan because Facebook disobeyed a court order to help investigators in a drug case that involves a WhatsApp user.

The arrest was made at the request of officials from the state of Sergipe, in Brazil?s north-east. In a statement, the federal police said Facebook/WhatsApp had repeatedly failed to comply with court orders relating to an organized crime and drug-trafficking investigation.

This reminds me, somewhat of the case where some Google execs were tried and convicted in Italy, because they didn’t take down a video fast enough (the company took it down, just not fast enough). While the underlying issues are different, arresting execs of tech companies because you don’t like the way they operate their business seems like a good way to make sure innovative internet services are not offered in your country at all. And, in this case, where Facebook relies on strong encryption in Whatsapp, it seems likely that the issue may be that it was impossible to comply with the court order in this case (though the full details are not yet known). Either way, arresting an exec over this seems extremely troubling — especially in a country such as Brazil that has been trying to set itself up as a strong supporter of a free and open internet, and that had argued against surveillance.

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Companies: facebook, whatsapp

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Comments on “Brazil Arrests Facebook Exec Because Company Refuses To Reveal Info On Whatsapp Users”

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Scote (profile) says:

I think that the troubling issue should be the over zealous law, rather than the arrest of executives. I think we have far too little arresting of executives here in the US, resulting in no personal responsibility for all manner of malfeasance, from breaking environmental laws to banking laws. Until executives are held seasonally accountable for their actions we can expect more of the same.

n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.”

-Ambrose Bierce

Anonymous Coward says:

The information and knowledge afforded by the internet is proving a little too tempting for individual nations to not want to take advantage of, politics and spy agencies being rife with that kind scheming. Problem is that kind of access would create escalating precidents and implications causing a cascading collapse of the entire network, threatening the civil liberties and freedom’s of everyone. I wonder though just how far those governments and agencies are willing to go for access to further their agenda’s, the day we start seeing exec’s and technicians being tortured to comply is going to be a particularly dark day indeed.

NeghVar (profile) says:

As a counter-strike, block all Brazil IP addresses from Facebook. Attempts of their citizen to reach Facebook, redirect to a site stating if you want Facebook back, protest to your government to release our employee. When the employee is released, we will unblock your country from Facebook.

And like with the Google case mentioned above. Threaten Italy that if you do not release our employees, we will cut off your country from all Google and Google owned services. (no gmail. Oh! and all that stuff your kept on Google Drive, it is blocked.)

Brazilian Guy says:

I’m a bit late for this party, but here anyway.

The Public Attorney went on record informing that the data being requested is not the content of the messages, but the register of to whom a given set of users sent messages, and if possible the register of the locations from where the message was sent and where those messages got received. They are probably thinking on terms of the kind of information cellphone service providers are lawfully required to provide to the authorities in the course of an investigation. That it probably is very dissimilar from the data Whatsapp actually retains doesn’t enter the judge consideration, because he probably believes Whatsapp is required to store that data to comply with Brazilian Laws.

Of course, many people are thinking that its a conspiracy to force out messages pro / against the Government (dependind on your political inclinations) in Facebook and Whatsapp. And then proceed to talk about it on Facebook and Whatsapp.

That our Minister of Justice has been replaced yesterday added a weird, paranoic, faux legitimacy to those hoaxes.

Ninja (profile) says:

I’m not sure if Brazilian courts asked for message contents or simply for the metadata (who sent, who received the messages and the time stamp). Theoretically Whatsapp could provide the metadata. But then again they probably wouldn’t offer too much resistance if that was the case or so I think. Besides, if facebook appealed the decision this should be on hold till the case moves forward but, again, I think our courts work a little bit differently concerning appeals and Facebook is not the target of the operation itself so maybe it can’t really appeal (I’m speculating here). There was a backlash with many lawyers agreeing it was an overreach.

Anon says:

Re: Re:

[sorry for the english]
The problem is that facebook did not even repply any of the requests. They keep claimming that Whatsup is not controlled by Brasil’s Facebook or something like that. AFAIK, this court is requesting just the metadata – not to confuse with the case last year which was in a different state and did in fact request contents of messages if i’m not mistaken.

nasch (profile) says:

While the underlying issues are different, arresting execs of tech companies because you don’t like the way they operate their business seems like a good way to make sure innovative internet services are not offered in your country at all.

You may disagree with the order. You may believe that it’s an overreach to arrest an executive over this. But if you’re claiming that this is being done because the Brazilian government “don’t like the way they operate their business” you should provide some evidence for that claim. And if you’re not claiming that, then you shouldn’t say it.

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