Bill Gates sides with FBI in Apple data privacy row

This comes after a number of high profile tech leaders have backed the company's stance

Bill Gates sides with FBI in Apple data privacy row

Mark Lennihan / AP

The founder of Microsoft and one of the most influential figures in global business, Bill Gates has sided with the FBI and against most of his senior peers saying technology companies should be forced to co-operate with law enforcement agencies in terrorism investigations.

The Head of Apple, Tim Cook, backed by many leading figures in the industry, is opposed to complying with a Federal Court order directing Apple to create new software allowing the FBI to circumvent password restrictions on an iPhone owned by Syed Farook, who was shot dead by police following his involvement in multiple killings in San Bernardino, California late last year.

In a statement to The Financial Times, Bill Gates said this was a specific case where the government was asking for targeted information:

"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 there were benefits to the government being able to enforce taxation, stop crime and investigate terror threats, though there must be rules on when the information can be accessed.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sundar Pichai, WhatsApp’s Jan Koum, and the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have all backed Apple's refusal to co-operate with the FBI's requests.

The Reform Government Surveillance lobby group, which Microsoft is a member of, issued a statement on Thursday saying that "technology companies should not be required to build in backdoors to the technologies that keep their users’ information secure."

Tim Cook has argued that creating backdoors in encrypted networks creates a backdoor for "everyone." He said that accessing user information would "undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect."