It seemed surprising that no one asked Bill Gates about NSA surveillance when he last did a Reddit Ask Me Anything session last month; but Rolling Stone didn't pass up the opportunity when interviewing Bill Gates.
When Rolling Stone asked Gates if he considered Edward Snowden to be a hero or a traitor, Gates said:
I think he broke the law, so I certainly wouldn't characterize him as a hero. If he wanted to raise the issues and stay in the country and engage in civil disobedience or something of that kind, or if he had been careful in terms of what he had released, then it would fit more of the model of "OK, I'm really trying to improve things." You won't find much admiration from me.
Persistent, Rolling Stone asked Gates if "it's better now that we know what we know about government surveillance?"
Gates: "The government has such ability to do these things. There has to be a debate. But the specific techniques they use become unavailable if they're discussed in detail. So the debate needs to be about the general notion of under what circumstances should they be allowed to do things."
You likely noticed that Gates hasn't mentioned privacy, and it seems Rolling Stone did too. After pointing out that we still don't really know what's going on in regards to government surveillance, the magazine added that "we want safety, but we also want privacy." That's not quite a question, but Gates still didn't touch upon privacy, digital or otherwise. Instead, Gates suggested that if we "knew that nothing was going on," then that should worry us. He said it would worry him.
Technology arms the bad guys with orders of magnitude more [power]. Not just bad guys. Crazy guys. Fertilizer wasn't too good for the federal building in Oklahoma City, but there's stuff out there now that makes fertilizer look like a joke.
Eventually, Gates started talking about the cloud. During the Reddit IAmA, Gates said, "I am excited about how the cloud and new devices can help us communicate and collaborate in new ways. The OS won't just be on one device and the information won't just be files - it will be your history including being able to review memories of things like kids growing up."
Unlike Apple co-founder Steve Wonziak, who doesn't trust the cloud to be safe from NSA spying, Gates loves the cloud. He also seems to be a big fan of surveillance.
Rolling Stone pointed out that people are concerned about their privacy, or the lack thereof, when it comes to storing their info in the cloud. Gates asked if security cameras should be setup "everywhere in outdoor streets," as he thinks cameras are a "very good thing" that can "catch terrorists." Gates added that people generally don't believe those cameras are used to invade privacy, and we "have to trust what the info is going to be used for." I suppose Gates wants us to trust that Microsoft won't misuse or otherwise abuse its surveillance powers of the cloud.
When Rolling Stone asked if people's "concerns are overblown," Gates said:
There's always been a lot of information about your activities. Every phone number you dial, every credit-card charge you make. It's long since passed that a typical person doesn't leave footprints. But we need explicit rules. If you were in a divorce lawsuit 20 years ago, is that a public document on the Web that a nosy neighbor should be able to pull up with a Bing or Google search? When I apply for a job, should my speeding tickets be available? Well, I'm a bus driver, how about in that case? And society does have an overriding interest in some activities, like, "Am I gathering nuclear-weapons plans, and am I going to kill millions of people?" If we think there's an increasing chance of that, who do you trust? I actually wish we were having more intense debates about these things.
If it's an intense debate about surveillance and the cloud that Gates would like, then the Syrian Electronic Army may be about to grant that wish. SEA has twice hacked Microsoft in 2014, giving Microsoft a red face and a pair of black eyes. SEA hackers warned that Microsoft is "spying on people" and not to "use Microsoft emails (Hotmail, Outlook), They are monitoring your accounts and selling the data to the governments." The pro-Assad hackers vowed to deliver the digital dirt by publishing stolen documents that "prove" Microsoft spies on email for governments.
Shortly thereafter, Microsoft admitted that targeted phishing attacks allowed SEA to steal law enforcement documents.
If Gates really wants an intense debate, that may be about to happen (again) for Microsoft. Yesterday, the Syrian Electronic Army tweeted that it will soon leak the documents showing what Microsoft is paid for email surveillance.
The entire Bill Gates: The Rolling Stone Interview is worth a read. Gates fan might also check out the Reddit Ask Me Anything session from February if they missed it. If SEA does leak stolen files, those will likely be worth the read as well.
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