Facebook exec released from Brazilian jail after WhatsApp dustup

The saga continues between Silicon Valley and law enforcement over user data. The latest: Facebook's detained vice president in Brazil has been set free.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read

The Facebook executive detained in Brazil on Tuesday has been released.

James Martin/CNET

A day after a Facebook executive was jailed in Brazil, he's now been released.

Here's what happened. On Tuesday, Diego Dzodan, Menlo California-based Facebook's vice president for Latin America, was arrested for not turning over information from a WhatsApp account linked to a drug trafficking investigation. The reason is that Facebook-owned WhatsApp, a free instant-messaging application, says it doesn't store messages on its service and so has nothing to give.

That didn't stop Brazilian authorities from jailing Dzodan for obstructing their investigation. That is, until Wednesday, when a judge ordered his release, calling the detainment an "unlawful coercion," according to Agence France-Presse.

"It seems to me that the extreme measure of imprisonment was hurried," Judge Ruy Pinheiro said, adding that Dzodan could not be arrested because he's not under criminal investigation.

The episode is the latest in growing tensions between Silicon Valley with law enforcement over user data. At stake is what the tech industry believes is its duty to safeguard the privacy of its users, while law enforcement officials say they need access to data as a matter of national security and crime-fighting.

Apple is embroiled in a similar saga in the United States. It's waging a battle against the FBI for data from an iPhone used by a terrorist in the San Bernardino, California, shootings, which claimed 14 people's lives.

On Wednesday, Facebook, the world's largest social network, condemned Dzodan's arrest.

"Diego's detention was an extreme, disproportionate measure, and we are pleased to see the court...issue an injunction ordering his release," a Facebook spokesman said. "Arresting people with no connection to a pending law enforcement investigation is a capricious step and we are concerned about the effects for people of Brazil and innovation in the country."

WhatsApp is used by more than 1 billion people a month worldwide.