Brazilian news portal G1 reported that the Federal Court of Londrina in Parana blocked Facebook assets corresponding to $19.5 million, an equivalent to about 6 million USD, due to their reluctance of complying with a court order.
The Federal Police in Quijarro were developing an operation that embraced three states and involved the arrest of a criminal gang of drug traffickers. It included 12 arrest warrants, over 50 search warrants and seven forceful retrievals.
Brazil vs. WhatsApp
Users can still use Whatsapp in the South American country as the court has decided just to block Facebook’s bank accounts. It was stated by officer Elvis Secco that Facebook was accredited for the inaction due to it being WhatsApp’s owner and WhatsApp not having bank accounts in Brazil.
Secco argued that WhatsApp’s representatives “hindered” the investigation by not allowing authorities to review the messages exchanged by drug traffickers. He stated that criminals nowadays only talk through electronic messages. Without access to the application’s messages, it is much harder to find members of the criminal organization.
WhatsApp has just recently guaranteed the full encryption of its messages from user to user. But it seems that free communications through the internet do have a backside, as it was displayed by the investigative efforts by Brazilian anti-drug forces.
The investigation started in January 2015. It was determined that the main group that transported cocaine was located in Londrina, in the northern bound of Parana. They had distribution routes set all over Brazil, including international routes directed towards Bolivia, Colombia, and Spain. Over the course of the investigations, a Bolivian couple was incarcerated for trafficking two tons of cocaine to Brazil.
Most of the cocaine was able to circumvent border authorities by hiding the cargo in the false bottoms of trucks and arts. It appears that some of the drivers of the vehicles were unaware of the drugs they were carrying, perhaps as to not raise suspicions when being questioned by border officers, but others did know of their illegal cargo.
The role of social networks and instant messaging services in criminal investigations are a delicate matter, in particular on the topics of terrorism and organized crime. For example, ISIS is known to use Facebook to recruit members and to spread propaganda material. Since there is little to no censorship concerning these sorts of content, terrorism and illegal affairs have a way of diverting into the mainstream flow of internet users. Many drug gangs have Facebook pages, some of them with thousands of followers.
It also appears that Brazil has a coarse relationship with WhatsApp. Back in May, WhatsApp was blocked for 72 hours in the whole of the country. It was a ruling imposed by Judge Marcel Montalvao, who stated that WhatsApp should provide chat records about drug investigations.
WhatsApp has repeatedly refused to the request, and on May’s events, they had to pay a penalty of $143,000 per blocked day. It seems that Brazil’s take on criminal policy is not going to accept WhatsApp as a hindrance in their investigations, as drug trafficking is a much more critical problem than user privacy.
Source: The Verge