Bill Gates cautions Apple and other tech companies about arrogance inviting government interference

Article Image

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has warned Apple and other tech companies that they need to exercise care when dealing with governments over important issues, such as the San Bernardino fight between Apple and the FBI over a locked iPhone, suggesting the firms may be inviting government intervention for overtly arrogant actions.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

Apple Board Members Bill Campbell, Millard Drexler, Albert Gore Jr., Arthur D. Levinson, Eric Schmidt and Jerry York today released the following statement

Apple Newsroom

Bill Gates thinks the government should force tech companies to unlock phones

iPhone Backdoor Bill Gates

Apple and the FBI were engaged in a massive polemic/legal battle/PR nightmare a couple of years ago. Apple did not want to create a backdoor into iOS so that the FBI could access encrypted information on an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters. The agency, meanwhile, wasn’t happy to see its investigation hindered by a matter the FBI knew Apple could technically fix. Ultimately, both won. Apple wasn’t forced to create an iOS backdoor that would allow the government and whoever found it to unlock devices part of investigations. The FBI found a fix from a third party which proved that particular iPhone model could still be hacked even if protected (encrypted) with a passcode.

Bill Gates, on the other hand, would have totally allowed the government to go forward, had he been in charge of the iPhone. He didn’t say that in so many words, but the Microsoft guru believes the government should be able to break encryption if needed.

“The companies need to be careful that they’re not … advocating things that would prevent government from being able to, under appropriate review, perform the type of functions that we’ve come to count on,” the former Microsoft chief told Axios.

Gates did not explicitly name Apple when talking about the companies “enthusiasm about making financial transactions anonymous and invisible, and their view that even a clear mass-murdering criminal’s communication should never be available to the government.”

But when pressed about whether he was talking about the government ability to unlock an iPhone he said that there’s “no question of ability; it’s the question of willingness.”

One of the things Gates is afraid is the way technology might be empowering smaller groups with malicious intentions.

“There’s always the question how much technology is empowering a small group of people to cause damage. … [S]maller groups might have access to … nuclear weapons or, even worse, bioterror or cyber” weapons, he said.

While Gates’ points aren’t meritless, we still have to remember that there’s no such thing as a safe way to break encryption. Unless Gates can invent one, then it’s unlikely for Apple and any other company that values encryption and consumer safety to kill encryption anytime soon with backdoors in devices or software.

Apple – BGR

Bill Gates to Apple: Help investigators access phones or risk regulation


Bill Gates rarely shied away from confronting Apple when he was Microsoft’s CEO, and new comments to Axios today suggest that he has a new issue with Cupertino: unbreakable encryption. Without mentioning Apple’s name, Gates raised the prospect that the company might be on the wrong side of the encryption debate, specifically when it comes to investigating criminals, and could face government regulation if it doesn’t cooperate with investigations.

Offered during a discussion of “big trends” that scare the technologist-turned-philanthropist, Gates’ premise is somewhat nuanced: Even if technology companies are moving society forward, they shouldn’t impede traditional governmental functions. “The companies need to be careful,” said Gates, “that they’re not … advocating things that would prevent government from being able to, under appropriate review, perform the type of functions that we’ve come to count on.”

One example? Taking a “view that even a clear mass-murdering criminal’s communication should never be available to the government.” When asked whether he was referring to Apple being able to unlock an iPhone, Gates said, “There’s no question of ability; it’s the question of willingness.” Some might read that as requiring a universal iOS backdoor that government actors could open with a court order, but offering case-by-case assistance to investigators could have the same effect.

Apple has described itself as unable to decrypt content stored on iOS devices and unwilling “to add a backdoor into any of our products.” Even facing FBI demands for assistance unlocking the iPhone of a gunman in San Bernardino, California, CEO Tim Cook refused to budge, touting Apple’s commitment to user privacy as more important. More recently, however, Apple has apparently offered to help the FBI in ways that don’t compromise its encryption system as a whole.

In the interview, Gates appears to be concerned about technology’s empowerment of “a small group of people to cause damage,” including anything from nuclear to bioterror to cyber weapons, which could affect billions of people. To that end, he also questioned tech companies’ “enthusiasm about making financial transactions anonymous and invisible,” presumably allowing money to flow to dark places without consequence.

While Gates may appear to be focusing heavily on Apple, he’s correct in noting that the U.S. government has historically had the ability to trace transactions and examine individuals’ communications during investigations. These data points have been the foundations of numerous criminal prosecutions, and if a company tries to impede reasonable investigations, it may actually be overstepping historic privacy rights. “The tech companies have to be … careful that they’re not trying to think their view is more important than the government’s view,” said Gates, “or than the government being able to function in some key areas.”

Gates is currently a full-time philanthropist, heading up the charitable Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with his wife. Under his watch, Microsoft developed a monopoly on PC operating systems, eventually losing a historic antitrust case that forced the company to assist third-party competitors and limit its web browser development.

Apple – VentureBeat

Bill Gates says big tech companies are inviting government regulation

Bill Gates warns that big tech companies aren’t worried enough about government regulation, in a new interview with Axios today. Calling out “Apple and other tech giants,” Gates argues that companies are inviting government intervention by flaunting hubris, saying they need to be “careful that they’re not trying to think their view is more important than the government’s view, or than the government being able to function in some key areas.”

When Axios asked Gates for an example, he said, “enthusiasm about making financial transactions anonymous and invisible, and their view that even a clear mass-murdering criminal’s communication should never be available to the government.” When pressed on whether Gates meant being able to unlock an…

Continue reading…

The Verge – All Posts