Bill Gates Seeks Neutral Territory In Encryption Spat Between Apple And FBI

bill gates
There’s a new voice speaking up in the battle between FBI and Apple over unlocking an iPhone that belonged to one of two San Bernardino terrorists that killed over a dozen people back in December. While tech giants including Facebook, Twitter and Google quickly came to Apple’s defense, a tech pioneer is striking a different tone in the increasingly thorny discussion.

In a report posted yesterday entitled “Bill Gates Backs FBI iPhone Hack Request,” Gates is on camera expressing his opinion on the matter, which doesn’t exactly mesh with the thoughts and wishes of Apple CEO Tim Cook. Gates says that this case doesn’t involve anything close to what could be considered a backdoor, adding, “This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information. They are not asking for some general thing; they are asking for a particular case.”

He also went on to say that it’s not like Apple couldn’t pilfer the data if it wanted to, stating, “Apple has access to the information, there just refusing to provide the access.”

On the point of providing access to the FBI in turn setting a precedent, Gates responds, “Well anytime a bank is told ‘Hey, turn over bank account information,’ as soon as they do that on one person, then they’re admitting that they can do that on many people. So yes, they’re waiting for the high court to make clear what they should do.”

Today, however, Gates took issues with the myriad of reports from around the Internet that suggested that he was clearly siding with the FBI. "I was disappointed cause that doesn't state my view on this," said Gates in a new interview with Bloomberg News. "I do believe that with the right safeguards, there are cases where the government, on our behalf, like stopping terrorism, which could get worse in the future, that that is valuable.

bill gates steve jobs
Bill Gates with the late Steve Jobs

“But striking that balance — clearly the government has taken information historically and used it in ways we didn't expect, going all the way back to say the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover."

Gates is clearly trying to take the middle ground, and emphasizes that point, adding, "You don't want to just take the minute after a terrorist event and swing that direction, nor do you want to in general completely swing away from government access when you get some abuse being revealed. You want to strike that balance that the United States leads in setting example."

The heated battle between Apple and the FBI all sparked last week when a U.S. magistrate judge ordered Apple to provide “reasonable technical assistance” in accessing the data found on the passcode-locked iPhone 5c. The court order prompted a fiery Tim Cook to respond back with a lengthy open letter stating Apple’s position on the matter and why it would not comply with the FBI’s (or the court’s) wishes.

“While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products,” wrote Cook. “And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”