February 23, 2016 9:09 am
Updated: February 24, 2016 9:29 am

Bill Gates takes the FBI’s side in the iPhone hacking debate

WATCH ABOVE: Apple CEO, FBI director invited to testify before lawmakers amid ongoing encryption battle

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While much of the tech industry has remained mum when it comes to the public debate over whether Apple should hack an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters, tech mogul Bill Gates has now publically commented on the case, voicing his support for the FBI.

While executives from Google and Facebook have offered short statements in support of Apple, Gates sided with law enforcement.

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“This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information. They are not asking for some general thing, they are asking for a particular case,” Gates said in an interview with The Financial Times.

READ MORE: US Justice Department looking at orders to force Apple to hack other iPhones, WSJ report

According to the interview, the former Microsoft CEO appeared to support the FBI’s argument that creating a special operating system allowing investigators to hack the iPhone would not automatically undermine encryption for all iPhone users.

In a separate interview with BBC, Gates said the debate comes down to whether governments should have access to data that could be used to protect citizens.

“Should governments be able to access information at all or should they be blind, that’s essentially what we are talking about,” Gates told the BBC.

Last week a U.S. magistrate judge ordered Apple to help the FBI hack into an encrypted iPhone used by Syed Farook, who along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people in San Bernardino last December.

The ruling would require Apple to create special software enabling the FBI to bypass the built-in self-destruct feature that erases the phone’s data after too many unsuccessful passcode attempts.

And while the Justice Department is only asking the company to help unlock Farook’s iPhone in particular, it’s unclear if the software could be adapted to hack other devices.

READ MORE: Why the FBI can’t hack an iPhone without help from Apple

“Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes,” Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in an open letter to customers.

Microsoft has not officially commented on its stance on the matter; however, as The Financial Times pointed out, the Reform Government Surveillance organization – which Microsoft is a member of – has released a statement saying companies should not be required to build backdoors into their products.

On Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg commented on the issue during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, stating that while he was “sympathetic with Apple” he believes tech companies have a “big responsibility to prevent terrorism.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai have expressed support for Apple’s decision.

Most Americans voice support for the FBI

According to a new survey from Pew Research Centre, just over half of American’s are also on the FBI’s side.

Pew Research Center found that 51 per cent of Americans think Apple should comply with the court order. Thirty-eight per cent of those polled said they were on Apple’s side, while 11 per cent were undecided.

READ MORE: Some victims in San Bernardino attack support efforts to hack iPhone

The poll – conducted from February 18 to 21 – found that almost identical shares of Republicans (56 per cent) and Democrats (55 per cent) felt Apple should unlock the San Bernardino suspect’s iPhone to help with the investigation.

“There are only modest differences in views across levels of educational attainment over whether Apple should unlock the iPhone,” read the report.

Data curated by FindTheData

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