Facebook’s Latin America vice president Diego Dzodan has been arrested by the Brazilian police due to some non-compliance issue with the way WhatsApp is being used in Brazil. WhatsApp has been having some problem with Brazilian authorities for quite some time now. Some months ago WhatsApp was banned in Brazil when the Brazilian telcos complained that people were bypassing the telephone companies to make calls directly from WhatsApp.
According to the Guardian, the police in São Paulo detained the regional vice president of Facebook for failing to provide information pertaining to a criminal investigation. The Facebook Latin America Vice President was taken into custody at Garulhos Airport on Tuesday.
This problem seems to be like something Apple is facing in the US in the wake of the San Bernardino mass shooting. Just like the FBI has demanded that Apple help the bureau unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorist, more than a month ago, a Brazilian court had ordered WhatsApp to reveal messages relating to a suspected drug-trafficking ring that might have been using WhatsApp to exchange messages. Just like Apple, Facebook/WhatsApp denied 3 related requests by the Brazilian Federal police. The court imposed a daily fine of 50,000 reais (GBP 9000) and then a daily penalty of 1 million reais (GBP 180,000). When all the penalties and all the summons failed, eventually the Facebook Latin America vice president Diego Dzodan was arrested.
Facebook on its part says that the step is “extreme and disproportionate”. Its representative says that WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook in 2014, doesn’t even have a single staff in Brazil, and besides, WhatsApp does not save messages on its servers. If the messages are encrypted, they are encrypted on the device of the user so there is no way Facebook or WhatsApp can help the Brazilian police access the messages of the drug cartel.
Well, when you operate in different countries such problems are bound to surface. Not every company is as tolerant as the US where Apple can blatantly refuse to help the FBI unlock a terrorist’s phone. When they need to comply, they do comply; for example, in China, Apple often gives as much information as the government wants without having any problem. This could also be because the Chinese are not as sensitive about the government agencies accessing their confidential information as people in the US are.