In a major controversy, the vice president of Facebook for Latin America in Brazil, David Dzodan was arrested by the police in Brazil. The arrest happened because the police wanted information regarding conversations that a drug trafficker had on the app, but the company refused to provide it. The arrest was a rather controversial move, as though Facebook owns WhatsApp, it operates independently. The debate on privacy and encryption has heated up once again.
Brazil, for those who might not remember, had blocked WhatsApp back in December. David was freed after Habeas Corpus was used in the court, and a local court ordered David Dzodan to be freed early on Wednesday.
Frederico Meinberg Ceroy, the president of the Brazilian Digital Law Institute has commented on the matter saying that the Police did the right thing by arresting David. “Requests for information in Brazil are made in a thoughtful way, usually only in cases of serious crimes such as pedophilia, drug trafficking, and organized crime,” Ceroy said. “Given this, you cannot talk about violation of privacy, abuse or excess.”
However, even if the Police had contacted the right authorities (WhatsApp officials), they would have received nothing as WhatsApp conversations are not stored anywhere, but are encrypted end-to-end between the users.
“We are disappointed with the extreme and disproportionate measure to have an executive of Facebook escorted to the police station due to a case involving WhatsApp, which operates separately from Facebook. Facebook has always been and will always be available to answer questions that Brazilian authorities can have,” Facebook said.
Apple and the FBI too are going through a similar case in the US, as Apple has been pressurized by the government as well as the FBI to reveal a backdoor to an iPhone used by a terrorist. The company declined and a major court battle has hence begun.