Brazilian court freezes $6M in Facebook funds in fight over WhatsApp encryption

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Over $6 million in Facebook's Brazilian bank accounts has been reportedly frozen, following a fresh court order in disputes over encrypted WhatsApp conversations.

A judge issued the order because of refusals by Facebook-owned WhatsApp to turn over messages related to an international cocaine smuggling ring, under investigation since January, said Brazil's Globo G1 as quoted by Reuters. Demands for the data have been ongoing for five months, and the amount frozen is equivalent to accumulated fines.

Since WhatsApp doesn't have accounts of its own in Brazil, the order was directed against Facebook. Notably, though, the court didn't issue a temporary service shutdown, something tried as recently as May in a separate WhatsApp-related legal battle. That ruling was overturned in 24 hours.

WhatsApp has run into repeated legal trouble in Brazil, including a previous shutdown in December 2015, and the March 2016 arrest of Facebook's Latin American VP, Diego Dzodan. Dzodan was released just a day later following an appeals court ruling.

WhatsApp has insisted that it's technically unfeasible for it to hand over conversation data, since it doesn't save client messages and couldn't decrypt them anyway. In April it moreover implemented end-to-end encryption for all communications, going beyond just one-on-one text messaging and VoIP calls.


  • Reply 1 of 11
    anderkhanderkh Posts: 23member
    ohhh 6 million - that's like a rounding error for FB
  • Reply 2 of 11
    icoco3icoco3 Posts: 1,474member
    anderkh said:
    ohhh 6 million - that's like a rounding error for FB
    Is it less than buying off the officials involved? :smile: 
  • Reply 3 of 11
    VisualSeedVisualSeed Posts: 217member
    I suspect this will be reversed in a day or two.
  • Reply 4 of 11
    ceek74ceek74 Posts: 324member
    Need that 6 mil to begin to clean up Rio.
  • Reply 5 of 11
    That's like asking a manufacturer of paper shredders to un-shred a clients' documents. 
  • Reply 6 of 11
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    Perhaps Facebook will revoke access to WhatsApp for Brazil.
  • Reply 7 of 11
    jameskatt2jameskatt2 Posts: 720member
    That 6 million won't cover any cure for Brazil's Zika virus epidemic. 

    Since Facebook saves no messages and all messages are end-to-end encrypted, then Facebook should simply say it doesn't have anything to give the court. 

    If the judge whines, then he is looks like a fool. 

  • Reply 8 of 11
    libertyforalllibertyforall Posts: 1,418member
    Just another exclamation point that all data and communications should have strong encryption, end to end!

    Johnson-Weld 2016!
  • Reply 9 of 11
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,088member
    Sure, Facebook can simply remove the app in Brazil in the worst-case-scenario I suppose.  It would be interesting to see what action Brazil would have taken against WhatsApp if it had not been owned by Facebook.  Prior to FB, they had no physical presence in Brazil so I could easily see them giving the middle-finger to the Brazilian judge.

    I suppose this means that Facebook will soon close any accounts in Brazil after this fiasco is over.  Besides... $6m is chump-change for Facebook.  It probably would barely cover the cost for Zuckerberg's family dinner in one night. :)

  • Reply 10 of 11
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,002member
    Perhaps Facebook will revoke access to WhatsApp for Brazil.
    Too many men here talk to their Brazilian girlfriends through WhatsApp for that to happen. 
  • Reply 11 of 11
    vvswarupvvswarup Posts: 336member
    I've looked at other sites carrying this story and their respective comments sections. Most of the comments sections are empty. In the few comments I've seen, I haven't seen one comment in support of the Brazilian government. I haven't seen one comment saying that now that WhatsApp has E2E encryption, the really bad type of criminals can do their business without law enforcement being able to catch them. This is in sharp contrast to news about Apple's fight with the FBI. Just saying, it's kind of interesting, but I digress.

    $6 million is a rounding error for Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg is probably digging in between the seat cushions on his sofas at home to scrounge up $6 million. The Brazilian government won't be able to make Facebook cripple WhatsApp's encryption over $6 million. For that matter, unless the Brazilian government decides to become a card-carrying authoritarian regime, it's not going to be able to get away with making Facebook cripple encryption for WhatsApp.
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