The world's richest man Bill Gates may not be a big fan of National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance and bulk data collection programs, but it doesn't mean he's inviting Edward Snowden to his next birthday bash. In fact, Snowden shouldn't expect to be on any of Gates' guest lists as the billionaire regards him in disdain.
"You won't find much admiration from me," Gates told Rolling Stone in an interview.
Here's the reason. "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,'" Gates said.
Gates isn't a big fan of NSA either, but acknowledged that "The government has such ability to do these things."
It would have been better if Snowden started something like a civil disobedience, Gates suggested. "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," the billionaire said.
Snowden's leaks have clearly opened a Pandora's Box, Gates suggested, and it may have put both the government and the public on the defensive. "Should surveillance be usable for petty crimes like jaywalking or minor drug possession? Or is there a higher threshold for certain information? Those aren't easy questions," Gates said.
Gates' opinion about Snowden comes in the wake of revelations that NSA may have used a phishing technique that mimics Facebook to plant malware in computers of unsuspecting Internet users. We're not saying that Microsoft doesn't care what NSA is doing or Gates doesn't care what NSA's up to, so long the intelligence agency doesn't mimic any of Microsoft's products or services to plant malware in computers of targets. Of course, some hackers have accused Microsoft of monitoring user accounts and selling data to the governments, but it doesn't mean Microsoft doesn't care about us. We're certain that Gates and Microsoft have always been and are champions of user privacy - though maybe they may not have been as expressive as Zuckerberg who even called Barack Obama and ranted his concerns about NSA. Let's not forget that last year in December, Microsoft even joined Google, Yahoo and other tech behemoths in appealing to the government to make bulk data collection more transparent and/or stop snooping on them.
However, the fact that Gates isn't an admirer of Snowden may speak volumes about Snowden, who may not be such a 'hero' after all. In other words, Snowden's intent may be good, but his method is clearly not, or at least that's what Gates think.
Incidentally, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak thinks Snowden is definitely a hero. ""He is a hero to me, but he may be a traitor to other people and I understand the reasons for them to think that way," Wozniak said, according to The Times of India. "I believe that Snowden believed, like I do, that the U.S. has a right to freedom. He had the guts to and courage to sacrifice his life for a principle."
"He has been vindicated and there have been illegal judgments and the NSA, and by the way, we have other three letter agencies like the CIA and FBI, and they are probably doing similar things. They cover up those loopholes, and they are in violation with our Constitution," Wozniak said.
Now that Gates has disclosed what he thinks about Snowden, we wonder what opinion Snowden has about Gates. Suggestions, anyone?