Federal police in Brazil have apprehended the vice president of Facebook for Latin America after the social media company refused access to data which, authorities say, was important to a criminal probe.

Tuesday’s detention, which was called an "extreme and disproportionate measure" by Facebook, was over data related to an investigation of drug trafficking in Sergipe state.

Court officials in Sergipe confirmed the detention of Diego Dzodan and police said he remained in custody for questioning in Sao Paulo state, according to the Reuters news agency.

"This information was required to produce evidence to be used in an organised crime and drug trafficking investigation," a police statement said. 

WhatsApp targeted

Brazilian media reported that the authorities were specifically targeting WhatsApp, Facebook's popular mobile phone chat tool.

"Facebook has always been and will be available to address any questions Brazilian authorities may have," the social media company said in an emailed statement. 

Privacy concerns have frequently put Facebook and other Internet giants at odds with Brazilian law enforcement seeking evidence in criminal cases.

In December, a judge suspended Facebook's popular WhatsApp phone-messaging service in Brazil for about 12 hours after it failed to comply with two court orders to share information in a criminal case.

In 2012, an elections court in Mato Grosso do Sul ordered the detention of Google's most senior executive in Brazil after the company failed to take down YouTube videos attacking a local mayoral candidate.

Source: Agencies