Microsoft founder Bill Gates sent a stern warning to Apple and other fellow Silicon Valley corporations in an interview with Axios published Tuesday, arguing that these firms are poking the big bear that is the federal government.
“The tech companies have 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,” Gates asserted, before elaborating on some examples, like companies’ “enthusiasm about making financial transactions anonymous and invisible.”
Gates worries that tech companies are alienating themselves from other key sectors of society, primarily the gatekeepers of law and order, by advocating for the privacy and rights of criminals, even “mass-murdering” ones.
After being asked if he was trying to allude to the battle between the FBI and Apple over unlocking iPhones — specifically that of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the perpetrators in the San Bernardino mass shooting — Gates said “there’s no question of ability; it’s the question of willingness.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook argued in a letter at the time — and throughout the aftermath with many other cybersecurity experts — that its technically feasible to create a back door to give law enforcement access to a locked smartphone, but it’s not anywhere close to being technically prudent or at all good for cybersecurity.
“Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation,” Cook wrote. “In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.”
But it wasn’t just Apple that Gates ultimately directed his concerned advice at, as particular “big trends [that] scare him” include biowarfare and its potential for immense and swift destruction, as well as nuclear and cyber weapons. (RELATED: Bill Gates: Advanced Terrorism Could Exterminate 30 Million People In Less Than A Year)
As for working with the White House to perhaps address these concerns and others, Gates sounded tepid, but hopeful.
“Although we disagree with this administration more than the others we’re met with, we believe it’s still important to work together whenever possible,” Gates said, according to Axios. “We keep talking to them because if the U.S. cuts back on its investments abroad, people in other countries will die, and Americans will be worse off.”
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