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Brazilian judge freezes Facebook funds over Whatsapp dispute

A Brazilian judged has ordered 19.5-million reals ($6-million/£4.5 million) of Facebook’s funds be frozen after the social network refused to hand over Whatsapp data to support a criminal investigation.

As Reuters reports, Brazilian law enforcement requested access to messages which they claim could aid an investigation into drug smugglers.

Whatsapp, which is owned by Facebook, has no bank accounts in Brazil, which is what prompted the judge in Parana state to freeze the social network’s funds.

The amount is apparently equal to the total of all fines the company has racked up by not handing over the data.

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Brazil’s federal police claim that without the messages as evidence, it will be almost impossible to prove links between individuals captured in recent raids and others involved in drug smuggling in Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Spain, according to G1.

The block on Facebook’s funds marks the latest move by Brazilian authorities to convince the company to supply the data, which Whatsapp has repeatedly refused to do.

It follows attempts by the Brazilian government to block Whatsapp, and the arrest of a Facebook executive in February – also related to the refusal to hand over message data.

Considering all Whatsapp messages became end-to-end encrypted as of April, even if Whatsapp wanted to, it would be unable to provide messages that were sent after that point.

Facebook also claims that any messages sent prior to April would not have been stored anyway.

There’s been no word of a new block on the messaging service this time around, although things could change on that front in the coming days.

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