Facebook Brazil head leaves jail as court demands WhatsApp data

The company's VP had been detained for failure to comply with requests for access to message information wanted for criminal investigations

Facebook Brazil vice president Diego Dzodan has been freed from jail this morning after being detained by the country's authorities for failure to comply with court demands for WhatsApp messaging data.

Dzodan had been charged with blocking the investigation of criminal activity - that's because Facebook denied access to exchanges relating to interstate organized crime and drug dealing activity carried out via its free messaging tool WhatsApp.

After being held by São Paulo police for questioning following a court order from the northeastern state of Sergipe, Dzodan was released on the grounds that there was no concrete proof that the executive had been obstructing the course of justice in any way.

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As well as Dzodan's prison order, the initial injunction also includes a daily fine to Facebook of R$1m ($256,000) in case the company refuses to release the data required for the criminal probe.

In a statement, Facebook said that it "has always been and will be available to address any questions Brazilian authorities may have" and argued that end-to-end encryption has been introduced to WhatsApp - this means that it cannot intercept or compromise the exchanges carried out via the tool because it simply does not hold the data.

In December last year, Facebook also denied to provide data on WhatsApp conversations relating to a separate criminal investigation, which resulted in the suspension of the service for a day, affecting several million users countrywide.

Again, another Brazilian judge is enjoying his few minutes in the media spotlight by taking on Facebook, but this also highlights how out of touch Brazilian authorities are as well as their failure to understand that free flow of information is a crucial pillar of the national infrastructure.

This court case is still ongoing, however a mistaken outcome could set a very dangerous precedent that will mean in practice that we should sign away our rights to privacy and just allow the government to listen to us all.