- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Brazilian authorities recently froze roughly $6 million worth of Facebook’s assets after a subsidiary of the social network refused to provide investigators with encrypted messages.

A federal court in the Brazilian state of Paraná agreed Thursday to put a hold on Facebook’s funds after the company failed to supply police with messages wanted in connection with an international drug trafficking investigation.

The communications sought by Brazilian police took place over WhatsApp, a messaging application acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion. WhatsApp doesn’t have a bank account within Brazil, however, prompting authorities to freeze the funds of its parent company as punishment for its noncompliance.

Elvis Secco, a federal official involved in the probe, said WhatsApp’s failure to provide authorities with the correspondence in question has stifled authorities’ ability to further their investigation.

“The refusal of the company to comply with the court order messes up everything,” Mr. Secco said, according to Globo, a Brazilian media conglomerate.

Without the messages, he added, investigators have been unable to find drugs buyers or dealers who may be involved in the alleged operation.

WhatsApp has been banned twice in Brazil since December as a result of the company’s failure to provide federal investigators with customers’ messages. Because WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption, however, even the company can’t decipher communications sent between users.

Globo reported that the 19.5 million Brazilian reals frozen by authorities is the equivalent to fines accumulated by WhatsApp since the company began being fined for noncompliance earlier this year.

WhatsApp CEO and co-founder Jan Koum previously said the company has no intention of “compromising the security of our billion users around the world” by weakening its security, and a Facebook spokesman accused Brazilian authorities of taking an “extreme step” after briefly detaining a senior executive of the social network in March amid the ongoing impasse.

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