Bill Gates Backs FBI Demand for Apple iPhone Backdoor

Microsoft co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates has voiced his opinion on the encryption debate surrounding an FBI demand seeking Apple to create a backdoor for an iPhone belonging to one of the terrorists in the San Bernadino shooting. It’s an opinion that’s bound to surprise many.

In a rare instance of a tech community veteran agreeing with the US government’s request to force Apple into creating a backdoor for an iPhone, Bill Gates has said that Apple should, in fact, co-operate with law enforcement to create a backdoor.

Furthermore, the former CEO of Microsoft and the world’s richest man does not believe that the FBI’s demand for a backdoor would create a wider precedent – a claim which Apple has repeatedly pointed to in its explanation for opposing the FBI request.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Bill 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.

In making an analogy, Gates also added:

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 around the disk drive and said ‘don’t make me cut this ribbon because you’ll make me cut it many times’.

The comparison shows Bill Gates’ belief that the request to a backdoor would be applicable this one time alone, without the possibility of being used over and over again to target other iPhones.

Apple, however, directly addressed this important question in the ongoing debate yesterday in a series of FAQs, one of which explained why the backdoor would, in fact, be replicated.

[It] would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks.

Of course, Apple would do our best to protect that key, but in a world where all of our data is under constant threat, it would be relentlessly attacked by hackers and cybercriminals. As recent attacks on the IRS systems and countless other data breaches have shown, no one is immune to cyberattacks.

Apple was resolute in its stance on encryption, adding to the above statement in noting:

Again, we strongly believe the only way to guarantee such a powerful tool isn’t abused and doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, is to never create it.

Bill Gates Voices Opinion Different To That of Silicon Valley Biggies

Gates’ comments are in stark contrast to those of other prominent tech-industry titans, many of whom have voiced their support for Apple and backed Tim Cook in his no-compromise stance on encryption.

Ironically, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella retweeted a link to a Reform Government Surveillance (RGS) statement posted by Microsoft Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith. The RGS coalition comprises of 10 premier technology firms including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter. The statement was clear in its opposition to build backdoors in technologies that is meant to keep their users’ information secure.

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook recently revealed that he sympathized with Apple, noting that backdoors aren’t the way forward in combating terrorism.

We’re sympathetic with Apple. We believe in encryption; we think that that’s an important tool.

Google CEO Sundaram Pichai has also sided with Cook, stating that the FBI request could set a “troubling precendent,” an opinion which directly falls on the opposite end of that expressed by Bill Gates.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Samburaj is the contributing editor at Hacked and keeps tabs on science, technology and cyber security.