Monday 24 October 2016

Bill Gates stands against Apple in FBI battle as rift dividing Silicon Valley

Cara McGoogan

Published 23/02/2016 | 14:52

Bill Gates likened the Apple case to the police getting records from a phone company
Bill Gates likened the Apple case to the police getting records from a phone company
Apple chief executive Tim Cook said hacking the locked phone would set a "dangerous precedent"

The rift between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Apple is driving a fault line through Silicon Valley.

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Bill Gates is the latest tech personality to come out in the stand-off between Apple and the FBI over unlocking one of the San Bernardino terrorist's phone.

Bucking the trend, Gates has sided with the FBI, claiming that technology companies should be compelled to work with law enforcement in terrorism investigations.

"This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information," Gates told the Financial Times. "They are not asking for a general thing, they are asking for a particular case."

While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.

Gates' comment follows Tim Cook's warning that creating a tool to help the FBI break into Syed Rizwan's iPhone 5c will set a "dangerous precedent".

"The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices," Cook said in a rare letter to Apple customers last week.

"In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable."

Cook later called for the formation of a commission of technology, intelligence and civil liberties experts to discuss the implications of the rift for law enforcement, national security, privacy and personal freedoms.

“This case is about much more than a single phone or a single investigation, so when we received the government’s order we knew we had to speak out,” he wrote. “At stake is the data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people, and setting a dangerous precedent that threatens everyone’s civil liberties.”

We don't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the land. I hope thoughtful people will take the time to understand that.

Gates disagrees with this argument and said that the FBI is requesting the back door only on this occasion. Comparing it to getting bank records, he said: "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.'"

With the comments, Gates breaks ranks with Silicon Valley giants Apple, Google, Facebook and Whatsapp. Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, Google chief executive, and Jan Koum, WhatsApp founder, have come out publicly in support of Apple.

"We are sympathetic with Apple on this one," Zuckerberg said at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona yesterday. "Back doors are not effective or the right thing to do."

James Comey, FBI director, told opponents to "stop saying the world is going to end", as he assured the public that he does not want to "set a master key loose on the land" on Sunday. But, according to the Wall Street Journal, the Department of Justice is trying to get access to a further 12 iPhones in separate court cases.

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