Access Now statement on arrest of Facebook VP Diego Dzodan in Brazil

Access Now is deeply concerned about the detention of Diego J. Dzodan, Facebook’s Vice President for Latin America in Brazil.

Dzodan was charged with contempt and obstruction of an organized crime investigation. Facebook owns WhatsApp, and because WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted, the company does not have and cannot hand over the content of messages that the government seeks in the investigation.

In December, WhatsApp was shut down pursuant to a court order in a similar case — also as a penalty for contempt — leaving millions of users in Brazil without their primary communications tool for several hours.

Holding a company and its representatives liable for not being able to provide information they do not possess is excessive and constitutes an undue burden on the providers of communication services. Requests for user data must be handled in a legal process compliant with the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, which require the government prove necessity, proportionality, and legitimate aim to justify any interference.

The detention of Dzodan sets a dangerous and disproportionate precedent for corporate liability and could slow the deployment of strong encryption technologies, which are essential to the privacy and safety of all users in Brazil and beyond. While we acknowledge that few details on the case are public, we encourage the court to review the contempt decision and balance the need for justice administration with the principles of necessity and proportionality, and the rights of Brazilian users.

Imprisoning corporate staff is an extraordinary measure. The detention and charges against Dzodan, on their face, appear clearly disproportionate. For this reason, we call for Dzodan’s immediate release.