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Bill Gates denies iPhone crack demand would set precedent

Former Microsoft boss calls for public debate

Bill Gates has weighed into the row between Apple and the FBI as to whether the fruity firm should unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino murderer, denying that such a move would create a dangerous precedent for “back doors.”

Apple has publicly refused to allow the US government access to the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook who killed 14 people in California last December, arguing that such a move would set a “dangerous precedent that threatens everyone’s civil liberties.”

Speaking to the Financial Times Gates said: "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: “Apple has access to the information, they are just refusing access.”

He said: “It is no different than [the question of] should anybody ever have been able to tell the phone company to get information, should anybody be able to get at bank records.

"Let’s say the bank had tied a ribbon round the disk drive and said, ‘Don’t make me cut this ribbon because you’ll make me cut it many times.'"

However, a number of Silicon Valley giants have backed Apple’s stance, including Facebook, Twitter and Google.

In a separate interview with BBC news, Gates called for a public debate on the issue: “I think we expect governments to find out everything they can about terrorism."

He said it would be "worth having a debate" as to the extent to which people are comfortable about how information the government has."

A number of Silicon Valley firms have rallied behind Apple since its CEO Tim Cook sent an all-staff email on Monday morning in which he argued that the case represents a "precedent that threatens everyone's civil liberties.”

That missive was in response to FBI director James Comey who said: “We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land. I hope thoughtful people will take the time to understand that. Maybe the phone holds the clue to finding more terrorists.” ®

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