Different Brazilian Judge Orders Facebook Exec Released After Arrest

from the what's-going-on-down-there dept

A bit of a follow up to yesterday's story about Brazilian law enforcement arresting Facebook vice president for Latin America, Diego Dzodan, because Whatsapp (a Facebook subsidiary) refused to help in a drug trafficking case. This was a ridiculous move by almost any measure: (1) While Whatsapp is a Facebook subsidiary, it's operated independently, so arresting a Facebook exec is like arresting an investor for what one of its companies does; (2) Whatsapp uses strong end-to-end encryption from Open Whisper Systems, the folks who make the gold standard encrypted communication system Signal Private Messenger, meaning that it's impossible for Whatsapp or Facebook to decrypt messages; and (3) jailing unrelated executives over issues like that is just insane.

Having heard from some folks in Brazil, it appears that part of the issue here was that the court wasn't necessarily seeking decrypted contents, but metadata about who someone was contacting. However, Whatsapp -- which doesn't appear to have operations in Brazil -- more or less ignored the demand. There's something of an open question as to whether or not Whatsapp has the metadata in question or whether or not Brazilian wiretapping laws apply to it, but that's another issue for another day. Either way, the original judge decided that because Whatsapp is owned by Facebook, that the two were basically the same, and thus the court could just throw a random Facebook exec in jail.

Thankfully, at least some cooler heads prevailed, and another judge has ordered that Dzodan be released, saying that the original order was "unlawful coercion."
The judge, Ruy Pinheiro, considered the detention of Diego Dzodan in Sao Paulo on Tuesday "unlawful coercion," the court in Sergipe state said in a statement.

"It seems to me that the extreme measure of imprisonment was hurried," Pinheiro said.
"Hurried" feels like a bit of an understatement. Still, it's good to see that the judicial system in Brazil quickly realized its mistake, even if it's worrisome that it made that mistake in the first place.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2016 @ 4:07pm

    Pro tip: when kidnapping someone (judicially or otherwise) for leverage, make sure your target actually cares about them.

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