US government is asking for a particular case, and Apple should comply, says Microsoft co-founder Gates
The Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has waded into the row between Apple and the FBI, arguing that the government agency is right to demand co-operation from Silicon Valley when it comes to terrorism investigations.
Gates also questioned Apple chief executive Tim Cook’s characterisation of the case as a demand for a “back door”, the Financial Times reported.
“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,” Gates said.
“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’.”
With his intervention, Gates stands on the opposite side of the conflict to many of the prominent figures in Silicon Valley, including Google’s Sundar Pichai and WhatsApp’s Jan Koum, and the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
More recently, Mark Zuckerberg also expressed support for Apple,telling the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona that “we’re sympathetic with Apple. We believe in encryption; we think that that’s an important tool”.
“I don’t think requiring backdoors with encryption is either going to be an effective way to increase security or is really the right thing to do for just the direction that the world is going to,” Zuckerberg added.
Even Gate’s own Microsoft has issued support for Apple, of a sort. The Reform Government Surveillance industry lobby group,of which Microsoft is a member,released a statement on Thursday saying that “technology companies should not be required to build in backdoors to the technologies that keep their users’ information secure.” The statement was tweeted by Microsoft’s chief legal officer, Brad Smith, and then retweeted by Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella.
The FBI has demanded that Apple rewrite the software on the iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter in order to make it possible for the agency to safely attempt to guess the passcode used to lock the phone,without accidentally triggering the destruction of data stored on the device. The agency is investigating the murderer for links to terrorist groups.
In a public letter released last week, Cook suggested that such modifications would amount to inserting a “back door” in iPhones, and would “undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect”.