The arrest related to WhatsApp's alleged refusal to hand over private user data / YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

Brazilian authorities alleged Diego Dzodan had repeatedly refused to hand over private WhatsApp user data

A Facebook vice president has been arrested in Brazil for his alleged refusal to hand over user data to the authorities.

Diego Dzodan, Facebook's boss in Latin America, was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly failing to comply with a court order demanding that he give the authorities user data from WhatsApp, the messaging service owned by Facebook.

The police claimed the private information was needed for an investigation into organised crime and drug trafficking.

According to the court which ordered his arrest, WhatsApp had denied three requests previous requests for information.

As The Guardian reports, the company was initially issued a fine of £9,000, to be paid every day they did not reveal the data. That fine was later upped to £180,000 a day, and later Dzodan's arrest was ordered.

Facebook called the arrest an “extreme and disproportionate".

It claimed that since WhatsApp operates independently from its parent company, Dzodan, as a Facebook employee, should not be held responsible.

It also said that because messages sent through WhatsApp are encrypted, the company doesn't even have access to the information the authorities are asking for.

Facebook and WhatsApp have faced challenges in Brazil before. Late last year, WhatsApp was shut down in the country for 48 hours, again over the company's alleged non-compliance with a court order.

Brazil was hailed as a model for net neutrality in 2014, after passing into law an 'Internet Bill of Rights' guaranteeing users online privacy and freedom of expression.

However, the country's congress has recently been making moves to crack down on internet freedom, discussing laws that would require citizens to provide their personal information to access certain websites.