Or is he?
Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates is backing the Federal Bureau of Investigation in its legal battle against Apple over encryption in an iPhone used by one of the shooters in December’s San Bernardino attacks.
In an interview with the Financial Times published late Monday night, Gates dismissed the idea that granting the FBI access would set a meaningful legal precedent, arguing that the FBI is “not asking for some general thing, [it is] asking for a particular case.”
Gates goes on:
“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.’”
[BUT] In an interview with Bloomberg’s TV network this morning, Gates takes issue with the FT story, but it’s not entirely clear whether he he is walking back his comments, or simply doesn’t like the headline and other packaging around them. After a Bloomberg anchor suggests that Gates was “blindsided” by the FT headline, Gates says the following:
“I was disappointed, because that doesn’t state my view on this. I do believe that with the right safeguards, there are cases where the government, on our behalf — like stopping terrorism, which could get worse in the future — that that is valuable. But striking that balance — clearly the government [has] taken information, historically, and used it in ways that we didn’t expect, going all the way back, say to the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. So I’m hoping now we can have the discussion. I do believe there are sets of safeguards where the government shouldn’t have to be completely blind.”
And in a response to a follow-up question about the specifics of the FBI/Apple dispute, Gates offered this: “The courts are going to decide this. … In the meantime, that gives us this opportunity to get the discussion. And these issues will be decided in Congress.”
I never trust anything Bill Gates says given his legacy.