Facebook Inc.’s 38 million reais (approx. $11.6 million) of funds have been frozen by Brazilian federal prosecutors following a conflict over access to WhatsApp messages, according to a report published by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
Brazilian prosecutors blocked the funds after the social network giant declined to follow a court verdict to deliver information contained in certain user’s WhatsApp messages. Facebook hasn’t responded to the news so far.
Prosecutors said that the 38 million reais relates to one million reais for each day since the company’s noncompliance with a court order to hand over WhatsApp messages associated to a criminal inquiry.
A couple of weeks ago, a Brazilian judge terminated WhatsApp service in Brazil when a similar request for collaboration was refused. However, service was restored the same after a lower court’s verdict was overturned by Brazil’s Supreme Court.
It wasn’t the first time that local judges, having considerable power in the country, had shut down WhatsApp service in Brazil. Though, each time service was rapidly restored. Whenever the service is blocked, it leaves millions of people without access to the most famous app in Brazil, as over half of the country’s population is estimated to use WhatsApp and most of them solely rely on it for communicating with friends and family.
Facebook argues that WhatsApp does not store users’ messages and, therefore, it cannot offer what it doesn’t have.
Earlier this year, Brazilian federal police temporarily detained Diego Dzodan, who is vice president Facebook’s Latin America operations, for purportedly not fulfilling police requests for giving access to WhatsApp messages associated to a drug-trafficking and organized-crime case. At that time, Facebook condemned the arrest and claimed that the executive had no relation to the inquiry.