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Bill Gates believes Apple should unlock iPhones at the government's request (AAPL, MSFT)

Edoardo Maggio
bill gates

Axel Schmidt/Getty Images

Microsoft founder Bill Gates believes companies should allow the government to operate freely if they don't want to be overscrutinized.

"Tech companies have to be careful that they're not trying to think their view is more important than the government's view, or than the government being able to function in some key areas," he told the news website Axios in an interview.

When the interviewer Mike Allen asked about Apple — which refused to help the FBI break in to an iPhone used by a terrorist in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015 — Gates replied that he didn't share the belief "that even a clear mass-murdering criminal's communication should never be available to the government."

"There's no question of ability" for Apple to unlock an iPhone, he said, adding, "It's the question of willingness."

Gates is often pictured as an optimist, so Axios asked him whether there was anything that scared him. Gates pointed to the double-edged nature of impactful technology's availability to small, independent, unregulated groups.

"There's always the question how much technology is empowering a small group of people to cause damage," he said, going on to say that "smaller groups" might have access to nuclear weapons, bioterror weapons, or cyberweapons.

"A small group can have an impact — in the case of nuclear, on millions; and in the case of bio, on billions," he added. "That is scary to me."

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