On February 16, Apple was ordered by a federal court to assist the FBI in unlocking an iPhone that was owned by one of the attackers in the December attacks in San Bernardino, California that resulted in the deaths of 14 people. Apple fired back, stating in a letter that it would challenge the request. The challenge by Apple has sparked debate over the rights of individuals, privacy, and national security.
Ultimately, the court is ordering Apple to disable the feature which cleans all the data from the phone after 10 incorrect password entries. Apple is concerned about the precedent that such an action would set. Timothy D. Cook, Apple's chief executive feels that any help the company gives the FBI with this would open up a "back door" that would compromise consumer privacy. Many in the industry have stayed out of the debate or have given quiet support to Apple, but earlier this week Bill Gates spoke up.
His initial comments were reported in the Financial Times. He is quoted as saying:
“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,”
Not too long after however, Bill Gates expressed his displeasure with the report telling Bloomberg News news that he is "disappointed" by headlines that state he supports the FBI. He goes on to say that "this doesn't state my vies on this." Gates goes on to clarify his position:
“I do believe that with the right safeguards there are cases where the government, on our behalf, like stopping terrorism which could get worse in the future, that that is valuable,” he said. “But striking that balance — clearly the government’s taken information historically and used it in ways that we didn’t expect going all the way back, say, to the F.B.I. under J. Edgar Hoover.”
Clearly the end result of this debate will be precedent setting in terms of privacy and government versus consume rights. The debate is destined to rage for a while as this could be one of the fundamental privacy issues of our time