Bill Gates warns tech firms may face government crackdown

Bill Gates may be a legendary figure in Silicon Valley, but that didn’t stop the billionaire from warning tech firms that they may need to dial back their superiority complexes. 

In a new interview, the Microsoft founder told Axios that Silicon Valley giants are ‘absolutely’ behaving in a way that could open them up to government intervention.  

He argued that tech firms shouldn’t always stand in the way when government entities try to perform ‘functions we’ve come to count on.’

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In a new interview, the Microsoft founder discussed Silicon Valley's relationship with the government, saying that tech firms should be more willing to police themselves

In a new interview, the Microsoft founder discussed Silicon Valley's relationship with the government, saying that tech firms should be more willing to police themselves

In a new interview, the Microsoft founder discussed Silicon Valley’s relationship with the government, saying that tech firms should be more willing to police themselves

‘The companies need to be careful that they’re not…advocating things that would prevent government from being able to, under appropriate review, perform the type of functions that we’ve come to count on,’ Gates explained. 

When asked how tech firms have been resisting government oversight, Gates pointed to the topic of end-to-end encryption, something that tech companies have staunchly defended as government officials have requested access to private messages. 

Specifically, he called out Apple and other tech firms’ ‘enthusiasm about making financial transactions anonymous and invisible.’

Gates also mentioned tech companies’ ‘view that even a clear mass-murdering criminal’s communication should never be available to the government.’

Here, he was presumably referring to Apple’s refusal to unlock the iPhone of one of the shooters who killed 14 people in a 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California. 

Gates added that it seems as if tech firms are unwilling to police themselves. 

‘There’s no question of ability; it’s the question of willingness,’ he explained. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook (left) resisted the FBI's order that Apple should help provide access to the iPhone of a shooter involved in the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California

Apple CEO Tim Cook (left) resisted the FBI's order that Apple should help provide access to the iPhone of a shooter involved in the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California

In the FBI's request, government officials essentially requested that Apple create a backdoor for the iPhone that would grant them access to the slayer's iPhone data.

In the FBI's request, government officials essentially requested that Apple create a backdoor for the iPhone that would grant them access to the slayer's iPhone data.

Apple CEO Tim Cook (left) resisted the FBI’s order that Apple should help provide access to the iPhone of a shooter involved in the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California

WHY WAS APPLE IN A BATTLE WITH THE FBI? 

In 2015, the FBI ordered Apple to grant it access to the iPhone of a shooter who killed 14 people in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California

Apple CEO Tim Cook fought the FBI on the order, saying it refused to create a backdoor for iPhones 

Cook added that it was ‘an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers’

Bill Gates was a surprising supporter of the FBI’s order, while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it believed Apple was making the right decision 

The FBI ultimately said it was able to break into the phone without needing Apple’s help    

And in 2016, the FBI dropped its court case attempting to force Apple to hack into an iPhone belonging to the San Bernardino terrorists

After the San Bernardino massacre, Gates was a vocal supporter of the FBI’s order that Apple should help provide access to the San Bernardino slayer’s iPhone. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook famously resisted the FBI’s order by saying the firm refused to create a backdoor for the iPhone, adding that it was ‘an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers.’

He also noted that the iPhone is encrypted to prevent hackers and criminals from accessing, stealing or using it without the owners knowledge or permission. 

Security experts have widely discouraged the use of backdoors, even ‘secure’ ones, because they leave open the serious risk of outside attack and compromise.   

Gates may have been suggesting that Apple create a backdoor that only it knows how to access and that the firm would only use it when requested by authorities, Gizmodo noted

To be sure, Gates has learned his lesson when it comes to big tech and Washington. 

Microsoft was a part of a landmark antitrust case in the 1990s, wherein the U.S. Justice Department forced the tech giant to curb its influence in the internet browser market.      

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