The arrest of a Facebook executive by Brazilian authorities over the inability of Whatsapp, a Facebook subsidiary, to hand over data it says it does not have is an egregious judicial overreach, PEN America said today.

Diego Dzodan, Facebook’s Vice President of Sales for Latin America, was arrested on March 1 after Whatsapp had repeatedly told federal police that they were unable to comply with a request to turn over information from a user account in connection with a drug trafficking investigation. Whatsapp stated that because the service uses encryption and does not store data, it did not have the information the police were requesting.

On March 2, Brazilian judge Ruy Pinheiro ordered the release of Mr. Dzodan. Judge Pinheiro acknowledged that Mr. Dzodan’s arrest had been “extreme” and called it “unlawful coercion.”

“The arrest of Mr. Dzodan, who has no connection to the police’s investigation, was a drastic and unnecessary measure,” said Katy Glenn Bass, deputy director of PEN’s Free Expression Programs. “This situation demonstrates the urgent need to establish clear principles on how governments engage with communications technology companies on questions with broad implications for privacy and free expression.”


Founded in 1922, PEN America is an association of 4,400 U.S. writers working to break down barriers to free expression worldwide.

Sarah Edkins, Deputy Director for Communications: [email protected], +1.646.779.4830