Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has given his opinion on the battle between the FBI and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) over the hacking of a phone belonging to one of the killers in the December mass shooting in San Bernadino.
Last week, the FBI asked for help to hack the phone, but was rebuffed by Apple, with others including social media titans Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) quick to endorse the phone-maker's stance.
But former Microsoft chief Gates remains unsure, 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.”
“You don’t want to just take the minute after a terrorist event and swing that direction, nor do you want to in general completely swing away from government access when you get some abuse being revealed. You want to strike that balance that the United States leads in setting example,” he added.
It follows comments made by FBI director James Comey on Sunday, in which he hit back at Apple’s refusal to help.
Comey said: “We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist’s passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly. That’s it.”
Last week, the US District Court in Los Angeles ruled that Apple must provide "reasonable technical assistance" to investigators seeking to unlock the data on the phone, including bypassing the passcode protection function so they can attempt an unlimited number of password guesses, but the tech giant has remained resolute in its refusal.
The two are in a legal battle; with Apple looking to protect its code - which is covered by the US’s free-speech law - while the FBI want to weaken the encryption process to help with investigations.
Apple shares eased 0.7% in New York to stand at US$96.20.