Brazilian police arrested Facebook VP Diego Dzodan this week after the Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp “repeatedly fail[ed] to comply with judicial orders” in a drug trafficking case.
According to CNN, Brazilian authorities began four months ago to investigate a criminal ring that used WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to communicate. When a judge ordered Facebook to help out in the case, it refused. Two months ago, the judge in the case began fining Facebook $12,600 daily for noncompliance. Last month, the fines skyrocketed to $253,000 a day. Now, the Brazilian federal authorities are detaining Facebook’s VP for Latin America.
Naturally, both Facebook and WhatsApp are outraged by the sudden and drastic move.
“We are disappointed that law enforcement took this extreme step,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said. “WhatsApp cannot provide information we do not have. We cooperated to the full extent of our ability in this case and while we respect the important job of law enforcement, we strongly disagree with its decision.”
But while it may seem like an extreme legal maneuver to us in the States, a Brazilian expert familiar with the case told The Guardian that it may come down to a huge misunderstanding.
“Sometimes judges here think that Facebook and Google are responsible to store all the information they have,” lawyer Adriano Mendes said. “A poor understanding of how technology works creates a lot of problems in Brazil. The judicial system is not equipped to deal with these issues.”
Though Dzodan will likely be released soon, his arrest is still a major warning shot to Facebook in its ongoing privacy battle around the world.