Bill Gates insists Apple should help the FBI unlock iPhone


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

  • Bill Gates who? Is this the same guy that “created” one of the most vulnerable operating system in information technology history? Is this the same guy whose operating system security can be bypassed using just a USB pen-drive sold on Ebay? Is this the same guy whose company recently “won” the contract for the supply of tablets to US government (FBI included)? Just wondering IF.

    • Ralph L. Baer

      Mac=superior race!

  • garyt1948

    “Bill Gates insists Apple should create iPhone backdoor for FBI….you need to listen to interview again Gates did not say that. Poor reporting on your part

    • Luke Dormehl

      How is he not saying that? He’s saying that Apple should help the FBI by creating a backdoor allowing them to extract information that’s stored on the device. He thinks that this would only be used once, rather than being a general backdoor for hacking every iPhone, but as we’re already seeing, the Department of Justice isn’t going to stop at using a backdoor for one solitary case.

    • Luke Dormehl

      I’ve changed the title to reflect the first that Bill Gates did not specifically use the word backdoor — but I don’t see how it’s possible to interpret his words differently. He’s basically suggesting that a backdoor is built, but believes (naively in my view) that it will only be used once.

      • Yes. That’s the point.

        Security issues can happen in two ways: accidentally due to poor programming or lack of attention and voluntarily (and yes old Bill knows what I’m writing about*). Both lead to misuse or abuse of devices contents. Apple is just trying to reduce by 50% these issues. By producing or modifying an entire iOS (believe me or not is what Apple should do, it’s not as simple as a jailbreaking procedure and it’s NOT reverse-engineering) this could leads, sooner or later stolen and/or modified version, to the “darknet” and this could be devastating for privacy of ALL OF US.

        *Windows Password Recovery, Finder, Reset, Removal for Window USB Flash Drive (not limited to it)

  • Didn’t he also once insist Apple license their operating system to Microsoft in exchange for Office for Mac so he could go back to Redmond and legally “clone” Mac OS? Sorry, Bill, Tim’s probably not listening to you.

  • I unfollowed him on Twitter. That’ll teach him a lesson.

  • digitaldumdum

    “Bill Gates insists Apple should help the FBI unlock iPhone”

    Riiiiight. Because the Windows operating system is so secure. Bill Gates couldn’t care less about security. The bundled apps, bloatware and adware he’s been forcing down Windows users for years prove it. I especially love his specious argument, “This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information” position Gates espouses. As he likely does not own one Apple device, certainly not an iPhone, the security and privacy of “the rest of us” is probably immaterial to Gates.