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Bill Gates Sides With FBI in Apple iPhone Case and Here's Why

"Nobody's talking about a back door."


Billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is speaking up about the Apple vs. FBI case. He tells Financial Times that the government's demand that Apple assist in creating a "back door" into the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone would not set a precedent, as Apple CEO Tim Cook had suggested.

"Nobody's talking about a back door. This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information," he said. "They are not asking for some general thing, they are asking for a particular case. Apple has access to the information, they are just refusing to provide the access and the courts will tell them whether to provide the access or not. You shouldn't call the access some special thing."

Gates went on to say that this situation is not unlike how authorities can obtain phone and bank records.

"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," he said. "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.'"

He added that some benefits of the government having access to information of this nature would be to stop crime, investigate terror threats, and enforce taxation. Gates also encouraged debate on the subject and said safeguards would need to exist for such a system to work well.

Last week, Apple was ordered by the government to create essentially a new version of iOS that would allow authorities to tap into Syed Rizwan Farook's iPhone. In an open letter, Cook said what the government is asking of the company fundamentally violates the privacy, security, and trust of its customers. In a follow-up letter to consumers, Apple said it is technically possible to do what the FBI is asking. Apple refuses, however, because it is "too dangerous."

"The only way to guarantee that such a powerful tool isn't abused and doesn't fall into the wrong hands is to never create it," Apple said.

Gates' comments stand in contrast to other high-profile tech executives. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai all sided with Cook and Apple, according to FT. Additionally, Edward Snowden said the Apple vs. FBI battle is "the most important tech case in a decade."

In his own statement Sunday evening, FBI director James Comey said the government has no intention of creating a master key to "set loose on the land."

"The particular legal issue is actually quite narrow," he said. "The relief we seek is limited and its value increasingly obsolete because the technology continues to evolve. We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist's passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly. That's it. We don't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the land."

"Although this case is about the innocents attacked in San Bernardino, it does highlight that we have awesome new technology that creates a serious tension between two values we all treasure--privacy and safety. That tension should not be resolved by corporations that sell stuff for a living."

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