Published: Tue, February 23, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Microsoft Founder, Bill Gates Backs FBI iPhone Hack Request

The row between Apple and the Federal Bureau of Investigation over access to a dead murderer's phone should start a debate about government requests for data, says Bill Gates.

Even after Apple chief executive Tim Cook said unlocking the phone was "an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers", Gates compared the FBI's request to more pedestrian ones.

Speaking to the Financial Times newspaper on Tuesday, the founder of Apple rival Microsoft denied that the Cupertino company assisting authorities would set a precedent. "They are not asking for some general thing, they are asking for a particular case", the newspaper quotes Gates as saying.

Mr. Gates rejected that argument.

"Should governments be able to access information at all or should they be blind, that's essentially what we are talking about", he told the BBC.

Gates also told the Financial Times that, as the newspaper put it, there are "benefits to the government being able to enforce taxation, stop crime and investigate terror threats, but said there must be rules on when the information can be accessed". However, when pushed on the issue Microsoft referred to a statement issued by the Reform Government Surveillance group of which it is a member.

The twelve cases are similar to the San Bernardino case in that prosecutors have sought to use the 18th-century All Writs Act to force Apple to comply, but none are related to terrorism charges and most involve older versions of iOS software.

The FBI asserts this is less an issue of securing private data on a phone and more one of making sure all crucial intelligence on the mass shooting is collected. Tech companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter have sided with Apple, as has NSA leaker Edward Snowden; Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and more than half of respondents in a Pew poll disagreed, saying Apple should help with the investigation.

FBI Director James Comey said Sunday in a blog post by Lawfare that this case is not about security-it is about the 14 people killed in the attacks. Of those questioned, 38% said Apple should resist the call and 11% had no opinion.



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