Brazil’s federal police have arrested Facebook’s Latin America boss, Diego Dzodan, over allegations that its messaging acquisition WhatsApp has not cooperated with a court order in a drug investigation.
The arrest comes amid heated debate across the world over encryption between tech firms and law enforcement.
The most prominent case is Apple’s fight against a US federal court order that demands it create a custom firmware update that would help the FBI brute force the iPhone 5c used by Syed Farook, one of the two shooters who killed 14 people in a December attack in San Bernardino, California.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has said the US government wanted something it did not have and that complying with the order would create additional security risks to all iPhone users. The firmware in question would also set a dangerous legal precedent, Cook argued.
Apple’s predicament in the US parallels the challenges Facebook and WhatsApp face in Brazil. In December, a Brazil court order briefly suspended WhatsApp across the nation because the Facebook-owned messaging company failed to comply with court orders related to a criminal case.
Following Cook's letter WhatsApp founder Jan Koum said he “couldn’t agree more” with the Apple CEO.
WhatsApp in 2014 implemented an end-to-end encryption system based on technology developed by open source encrypted messaging firm, Open Whisper Systems, which makes the encrypted messaging app, Signal.
"WhatsApp cannot provide information we do not have. We cooperated to the full extent of our ability in this case," a spokesperson for WhatsApp told Reuters.Read more: The week in security: Why scammers and extortionists love Australia; Apple cites US Constitution in FBI fight
Facebook said in a statement to CSO Australia: "We’re disappointed with the extreme and disproportionate measure of having a Facebook executive escorted to a police station in connection with a case involving WhatsApp, which operates separately from Facebook. Facebook has always been and will be available to address any questions Brazilian authorities may have.”
Microsoft has also contested Brazil's data access laws. Making a case against US warrants for data held in non-US data centres, Microsoft’s chief legal counsel Brad Smith last week told to a US senate committee that Brazilian laws had resulted in fines for failing to supply information held by in data centres outside the country, including one arrests of a Microsoft employee.
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