22 October 2016
Facebook called the arrest of Diego Dzodan an 'extreme and disproportionate measure'. Photo: YouTube
Facebook called the arrest of Diego Dzodan an 'extreme and disproportionate measure'. Photo: YouTube

Brazil jails Facebook exec as court seeks WhatsApp data

Brazilian police arrested a senior Facebook Inc. executive Tuesday over a court’s demand that the firm provide data from its WhatsApp messaging service to help in a drug-trafficking investigation, Reuters reports.

Court officials in Sergipe state confirmed that a judge had ordered the jailing of Diego Dzodan, Facebook’s vice president for Latin America.

Law enforcement officials would not release further information about the nature of their request to the messaging service that Facebook Inc. acquired in 2014, saying that doing so could compromise an ongoing criminal investigation.

The arrest, which Facebook called an “extreme and disproportionate measure”, came as social media and internet companies face mounting pressure from governments around the world to help them eavesdrop on users and to filter content.

Court officials said the judge resorted to the arrest after issuing a fine of 1 million reais (US$250,000) to compel Facebook to help investigators access WhatsApp messages relevant to their drug-trafficking investigation.

That may not be possible, because WhatsApp began in 2014 to use end-to-end encryption technology that prevents the company from monitoring messages that travel across its network, Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union, was quoted as saying.

“They are using technology to try to take themselves out of the surveillance business,” Soghoian said.

Apple Inc. finds itself at odds with the United States government on similar grounds.

US prosecutors want the company to build a software tool to help investigators unlock the iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino, California, attacks.

Apple has refused, saying it would set a dangerous precedent that would make its customers vulnerable to spying.

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