Microsoft founder, Bill Gates believes it’s important for the U.S. to have an honest discussion about the privacy vs security debate sweeping Silicon Valley and Washington D.C. in the wake of Apple’s battle with the FBI.
On Tuesday, The Financial Times published an interview with Gates musing almost philosophically that in particular cases it may be appropriate for technology companies to give law enforcement access to data.
Gates’ waffling and vagueness on this issue highlight the broader discomfort and tensions that technology execs are now confronting when debating how to weigh in on Apple’s refusal to help the FBI unlock information on the iPhone 5c belonging to one of the gunmen behind last year’s mass shooting in San Bernardino.
According to the Financial Times interview, Mr Gates said,
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
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’.”
Like his peers, Gates and the company he founded must simultaneously straddle the interests of the technology industry and its most privacy-conscious consumers.
Apple has been on a public relations offensive since a federal judge ordered the tech giant to help the FBI unlock an iPhone used by one of the killers in the San Bernardino, Calif., shootings.
Apple CEO, Tim Cook why responding to a question (during an interview on 60 Minutes) on why apple uses encryption said:
There’s likely health information, there’s financial information. There are intimate conversations with your family, or your co-workers. There’s probably business secrets and you should have the ability to protect it. And the only way we know how to do that, is to encrypt it. Why is that? It’s because if there’s a way to get in, then somebody will find the way in.
On why they are fighting the FBI’s request, he said:
We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.”