If there’s one thing about the financial system everybody should be afraid about, it is the chance of having funds frozen indefinitely. Facebook, of all companies, saw US$11.7m frozen by a Brazilian prosecutor over their failure to provide WhatsApp data to the government. Privacy invasion is running rampant all over the world, and going after financial means is one way to ensure governments get what they want.
Centralized Power Is Beneficial For Freezing Funds
Albeit most people never hope to deal with a bank account being frozen, it can happen to any of us at any given time. Even giant companies such as Facebook are not safe from harm, as one of their Brazilian bank accounts was frozen by the country’s prosecutor. Earlier this year, Facebook failed to comply with a court order to hand over WhatsApp user data. Granted, these users were suspected of criminal activity, but there was no transparency as to what these claims were based on precisely.
The frozen funds correspond to “fines” for failing to comply with the court order, according to the Brazilian prosecutor’s office. It is worrisome to see one person being able to freeze anyone’s funds at will, regardless of whether a corporation or an individual owns the bank account. Scenarios like these shouldn’t even be possible in the first place.
In cases like these, jurisdiction usually plays a big role. Facebook argued the data of these WhatsApp users belonged to service operators outside of Brazil. Without international cooperation, obtaining that information would be illegal. However, the Brazilian prosecutor had no interest in this train of thought and dismissed it immediately.
Moreover, WhatsApp has been shut down three times in Brazil since last December. For now, it seems this trend will continue until government officials get what they want. All they are doing is making life harder for the consumer, and they will revolt sooner or later. But the worries extend far beyond the technological side of things.
Nothing is stopping the prosecutor in Brazil – or any other country – from freezing anybody’s bank account at will. If they even remotely suspect illegal activity, they can order to have funds frozen, and the banks will have to comply. Users should take control of their finance and not put their trust in centralized organizations.
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