Facebook executive jailed in Brazil as court seeks WhatsApp data

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Facebook's Faces Legal Battle As Their Executive Is Jailed In Brazil

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian police arrested a senior Facebook Inc executive on Tuesday as a dispute escalated over a court's demand that the company provide data from its WhatsApp messaging service to help in a secretive drug-trafficking investigation.

Court officials in Sergipe state confirmed that a judge had ordered the jailing of Facebook Vice President for Latin America Diego Dzodan. Federal police in Sao Paulo state said he was being held there for questioning.

Law enforcement officials withheld further information about the nature of their request to the messaging service that Facebook Inc acquired in 2014, saying that doing so could compromise an ongoing criminal investigation.

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The arrest, which Facebook called an "extreme and disproportionate measure," came as social media and Internet companies face mounting pressure from governments around the world to help them eavesdrop on users and filter content.

Arrests of officials from social media companies are extremely rare, though not unprecedented, because the companies typically comply with local court orders, especially from countries where they have branch offices.

Facebook has come a long way since its inception -- see images of Facebook through the years:

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Facebook over the years
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Facebook executive jailed in Brazil as court seeks WhatsApp data

The original Facebook homepage from 2004 with a small picture of Al Pacino in the top left corner.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Mark Zuckerberg originally described himself as not only the founder of Facebook, but also as the "Master and Commander" and "Enemy of the State."

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Here's what a Facebook group page looked like in 2005.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

For comparison, this is what a Facebook group page looks like today.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

The Facebook homepage in 2005 also listed all of the schools the social network was in -- and still included the photo of Al Pacino.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

The company decided to drop the "the" from its name in 2005, after it bought the domain Facebook.com for $200,000.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

We love this gem about "poking" from one of the original FAQ pages.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook's homepage in 2006 was a stripped-back affair, doing away with the list of schools in favor of a simple login option.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Mark Zuckerberg's profile in 2006.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook launched the News Feed to display all your friends' activity in a single timeline in 2006.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

At the same time, Facebook introduced the Mini-Feed. But the entire concept of a News Feed resulted in some very public outrage. Some users even went so far to call one of Facebook's product managers the devil.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook's 2007 homepage contained the first instance of its now-synonymous logo and offered the "latest news" from friends.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

The Facebook of 2008 continued to refine the homepage and offered options for signing up.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Facebook gained the "connected world" diagram in 2009, which lasted all the way until 2011.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

In 2009, Facebook's home page also got a facelift. Posts started to stream through the News Feed in real-time.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

That same year, Facebook also introduced its algorithm for determining the order in which status updates should be displayed.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook changed its logo font in 2010 but left the homepage much the same.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

2010 was also when Facebook brought notifications to the top navigation bar following yet another redesign.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook also rolled out a new, more visual profile in 2010. It added a row of recently tagged images below your name and basic profile information.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook left the design the same in 2011, but made the input boxes used to log in clearer.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Facebook launched the News Ticker in 2011 so users could keep up with their friends while browsing through other parts of Facebook.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

The Facebook Timeline feels like it's been around since the beginning. But it launched in 2011 to act as a virtual timeline of your entire life.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook also split its instant messaging into a different app called Messenger in 2011. It's now got more than 800 million monthly users.

Photo courtesy: iTunes

Facebook swapped out the connected world diagram for a phone in 2012 as its users moved from desktop to mobile. Today, over 800 million people access Facebook on mobile everyday.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Facebook started flooding the News Feed with sponsored stories in January 2012.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook settled on a design in 2013 that it would stay with for the next few years.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

This is what Facebook's mobile app looked like when it first launched.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

It has since been completely redesigned.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook also owns a bunch of other popular apps, most notably Instagram, which the company bought for $1 billion in 2012. With more than 400 million monthly users, that seems like a steal nowadays.

Photo courtesy: Business Insider

2015 was a big year for Facebook that saw its first ever day with one billion users online simultaneously. The company had figured out how to make money from mobile too, turning it into a $300 billion business.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Today, more than 1.5 billion people use the social network every single month.

Photo courtesy: Facebook

And more than 1.4 billion people use it on their mobile phones every month. Not bad, considering 12 years ago smartphones didn't even exist.

Photo courtesy: Facebook

Here's the Facebook homepage today, on its 12th birthday.
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"Precisely because these large global Internet companies have staff in many countries who are vulnerable to legal action including arrest and criminal charges, they generally do comply with legally binding requests from authorities for user data or to remove or block content in those countries where they have 'boots on the ground,'" said Internet freedom activist Rebecca MacKinnon.

Prior to its acquisition by Facebook, California-based WhatsApp had less skin in the game in disputes with governments outside the United States because, unlike Facebook, it did not have staff scattered around the globe.

"WhatsApp is a company that was started very focused on U.S. laws," said Internet law attorney Marcia Hoffmann. "Now that it's owned by a company with people and resources in other countries, there is more leverage for those governments to put pressure in new and in different ways. Arresting executives is one of them."

While details of the case remain murky, court officials said the judge in Brazil resorted to the arrest after issuing a fine of 1 million reais ($250,000) to compel Facebook to help investigators access WhatsApp messages relevant to their drug-trafficking investigation.

That is likely impossible because WhatsApp began using end-to-end encryption technology in 2014 that prevents the company from monitoring messages that travel across its network, said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union.

"They are using technology to try to take themselves out of the surveillance business," Soghoian said.

The arrest surfaced as Apple Inc finds itself at odds with the United States government on similar grounds.

SEE ALSO: FBI admits making mistake with Calif. San Bernardino shooter's phone

U.S. prosecutors want the company to build a software tool to help investigators unlock the iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino, California, attacks. Apple has refused, saying it would set a dangerous precedent that would make its customers vulnerable to spying. Privacy concerns have previously put Facebook at odds with Brazilian law enforcement seeking evidence in criminal cases, although the confrontations rarely rise to the prominence of Apple's current standoff with the U.S. authorities. In December, a judge suspended Facebook's popular WhatsApp phone-messaging service in Brazil for about 12 hours after it failed to comply with two court orders to share information in a criminal case.

Brazil passed an Internet law two years ago aimed at streamlining thorny legal issues, but lower courts still have vast discretionary powers according to legal expert Ronaldo Lemos, a chief architect of that 2014 law.

"The court of appeals tends to be more sensitive in these cases, but the lower courts are still tough, as today's decision shows," said Lemos.

(Reporting by Brad Haynes; Additional reporting by Jim Finkle, Jonathan Weber, Cesar Bianconi and Maria Pia Palermo; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Tom Brown)


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