Despite his status as a Silicon Valley legend and data privacy advocate, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has little love for former National Security Agency contractor and classified program leaker Edward Snowden.
“I think he broke the law, so I certainly wouldn’t characterize him as a hero,” Gates said in a Rolling Stone interview published on Thursday.
“If he wanted to raise the issues and stay in the country and engage in civil disobedience or something of that kind, or if he had been careful in terms of what he had released, then it would fit more of the model of ‘OK, I’m really trying to improve things,’” Gates said. “You won’t find much admiration from me.”
While discussing privacy concerns raised by cloud computing and its abundance of stored information, Gates expressed the need for “more intense debates” concerning privacy, but discounted the notion that Snowden is the hero to thank for the conversation spurred by his leaks.
“The government has such ability to do these things. There has to be a debate,” Gates said. “But the specific techniques they use become unavailable if they’re discussed in detail. So the debate needs to be about the general notion of under what circumstances should they be allowed to do things.”
Gates admitted that ethical questions raised by government surveillance programs like the NSA’s “aren’t easy,” but thought certain detailed specifics should be kept secret. He added that privacy advocates calling for full disclosure are “not being very articulate right now.”