Microsoft has always enjoy a cozy relationship with the State. This isn’t surprising to anybody who has paid attention to Bill Gates and his ongoing love affair with the State. It’s also not surprising that he is siding with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) against Apple:
Technology companies should be forced to cooperate with law enforcement in terrorism investigations, Gates said, according to a Financial Times story posted late Monday.
“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,” he said.
This statement by Gates is laughable. The FBI is demanding Apple create a custom signed version of iOS that doesn’t include several security features and includes builtin software to brute force the decryption key set by the user. That is not a general thing for a particular case, that’s a general tool that can used on many iPhones.
What is funny about this though is that Bill Gates tried to backpedal but in so doing only said exactly the same thing over again:
In an interview with Bloomberg, Bill Gates says he was “disappointed” by reports that he supported the FBI in its legal battle with Apple, saying “that doesn’t state my view on this.”
Still, Gates took a more moderate stance than some of his counterparts in the tech industry, not fully backing either the FBI or Apple but calling for a broader “discussion” on the issues. “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.” But he called for “striking [a] balance” between safeguards against government power and security.
Any “balance” would require Apple to create firmware that includes a backdoor for government use. In other words, it would require exactly what the FBI is demanding of Apple.
Cryptography is math and math belongs to that very small category of things that are either black or white. Either the cryptography you’re using is effective and only allows authorized parties to access the unencrypted content or it is ineffective. There is no middle ground. You cannot break cryptography just a little bit.
Although the existence of a version of iOS with a backdoor is frightening in of itself, the idea that a single judge can enslave software developers by issuing a writ is terrifying. That’s an aspect of this case that is getting glossed over a lot. Apple has already publicly stated it has no desire to write a weakened version of iOS. If the court sides with the FBI it will try to force Apple to write software against its will. Why should any individual have the power to legally do that?