Brazil plod nicks Facebook VP over WhatsApp failure to comply with judge’s order

Facebook’s WhatsApp is Brazil’s drug of choice. Diego Dzodan might wish it was not so.

Facebook Brazil Diego Dzodan
Credit: Facebook, Inc.

Facebook VP held in Brazil by police, who say WhatsApp failed to follow a court order. The judge’s demand told Facebook to release information about drug-probe suspects.

Facebook, owners of WhatsApp, says it doesn’t have the information that the police want. And it thunders that the arrest of Diego Dzodan is “disproportionate.”

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers break out the popcorn. Not to mention: Dodge & Fuski

curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. [Developing story: Updated 2:11 am PT with more comment]

What’s the craic? David Meyer is fortunate—Brazil Arrests Senior Facebook Exec:

Facebook’s vice president for Latin America has been arrested on his way to work. ... The federal police said Facebook/WhatsApp had repeatedly failed to comply with court orders relating to...drug-trafficking.

WhatsApp said in a statement that it was disappointed...and is unable to provide information it does not have. ... “While we respect the important job of law enforcement, we strongly disagree with its decision.”

Diego Dzodan has been in his post at Facebook since June. ... Previously, he spent six months as regional [SVP] for Software AG, and before that...several senior roles for SAP.

So this is about user privacy again? Ingrid Lunden investigates—Facebook LatAm VP arrested in Brazil:

Apple isn’t the only tech giant battling against authorities over privacy issues. ... Brazilian authorities have been requesting Facebook to release data in connection with [an] investigation it is conducting.

While Apple’s position in its ongoing battle with the FBI...underscore’s the company’s wider stance on user privacy, [Facebook] says it cannot provide information that it simply does not have. ... A Facebook spokesperson highlighted the disproportionate response.

WhatsApp has always stated that it does not keep any records of the messages that people send on its service. ... WhatsApp is a popular messaging service in the region.

And it’s not as if WhatsApp is a bit-player in the region. Brad Haynes reads the fine manual—Brazil police detain Facebook executive:

Court officials in Sergipe state confirmed the detention. ... Police said he remained in custody for questioning in Sao Paulo state.

Privacy concerns have frequently put Facebook and other Internet giants at odds with Brazilian law enforcement...although the confrontations rarely rise to the prominence of Apple Inc's current standoff with the [FBI]. Internet firms have faced mounting pressure from governments around the world to...turn over customer information for law enforcement and intelligence operations.

WhatsApp is installed on nearly 93 percent of Android devices in Brazil...according to SimilarWeb. ... Brazilian courts in particular have not shied away from targeting senior tech officials.

What should we think about this? In a few tweets, the thoughts of Christopher Soghoian:

Breaking: AT&T CEO arrested after company refuses to turn over...text messages to FBI. (Kidding. They turn them over all the time.)

The Brazilians arrested a [Facebook] VP. DOJ took Apple to court. Governments really don't like it.

"Sorry, we don't have the data." ... Much safer for a company to say than "we don't want to give it to you."

Update: Insufficient-snark error. Mike Masnick dishes the dirt-Because Company Refuses To Reveal Info On Whatsapp Users:

Back in December...somewhat ridiculously...the super popular Whatsapp service...was blocked in Brazil, because Facebook refused to reveal part of a drug trafficking investigation. ... Apparently things have escalated.

This reminds me...of the case where some Google execs were tried and convicted in Italy, because they didn't take down a video fast enough. ... Arresting execs of tech companies because you don't like the way they operate...seems like a good way to make sure are not offered in your country.

In this seems likely that the issue [is] it was impossible to comply. ... Arresting an exec...seems extremely troubling. Brazil...has been trying to set itself up as a strong supporter of a free and open internet...against surveillance.

“Impossible” to comply? Or just that the court asked the wrong entity, as Mal-2 suggests:

This is analogous to U.S. authorities trying to order access to e-mail stored in Ireland. ... Facebook is playing a slightly different game though, because the user in question resides in the country making the request.

Yes, but, this wasn’t just a police action—it was an actual court order. But an Anonymous Coward clarifies the situation on the ground:

WhatsApp is a distinct entity...from Facebook Brasil. The proper way to get this data is to subpoena it in a Californian court.

Brazilian judges neither understand how the Internet works [nor] their own country’s law. [It will] be overturned in a higher court.

And Finally…

Dodge & Fuski

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Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

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