Bill Gates insists Apple should help the FBI unlock iPhone

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Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, rivals and friends.
On this occasion, it's Bill Gates who is thinking different.
Photo: AllThingsD

We’re decades removed from Bill Gates’ vicious battle against Steve Jobs, but Gates isn’t quite as ready as some of his contemporaries to side with Apple concerning one of tech’s biggest stories of 2016.

In a new interview, Gates defies Silicon Valley consensus, arguing that Apple should create an FBI backdoor for the iPhone — and siding with FBI director James Comey by suggesting that this wouldn’t, in fact, set a dangerous precedent for the possibility of future snooping.

“This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information,” Gates is reported as saying. “They are not asking for some general thing, they are asking for a particular case. It is no different than [the question of] should anybody ever have been able to tell the phone company to get information, should anybody be able to get at bank records. Let’s say the bank had tied a ribbon round the disk drive and said, ‘Don’t make me cut this ribbon because you’ll make me cut it many times’.”

While I’ve always been a fan of Apple first and foremost, I’ve also admired the work of Bill Gates — particularly when it comes to his post-Microsoft philanthropy and some of his predictions about the future of technology. It’s therefore a real shame to see him argue something which seems as wrong-footed as believing that an iPhone backdoor would only be used in this one particular case, and never again.

Fortunately, few of Gates’ fellow tech entrepreneurs have backed the FBI in its privacy battle with Apple. Mark Zuckerberg, WhatsApp founder Jan Koum, and even current Apple frenemies Google have all spoken out about their concern at the attack on end-to-end encryption. It’s unfortunate that Gates isn’t among them.

Update: Bill Gates has issued a follow-up comment, stating that:

“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. 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. I’m hoping now we can have the discussion. I do believe there are sets of safeguards where the government shouldn’t have to be completely blind.”

Via: The Guardian