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Snowden is no hero, says Bill Gates

Recently reinstalled back at the top of the Forbes rich list, and with a special role as technology adviser to new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Bill Gates is back in the spotlight. The 58 year-old co-founder of Microsoft has given an extensive interview to Rolling Stone, in which he discusses Edward Snowden, Silicon Valley and God.

When asked if NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was “a hero or a traitor”, Gates had this to say: “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.”

“I actually wish we were having more intense debates about these things,” explained Gates. “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?”

Gates also said that Microsoft would have been “willing” to buy WhatsApp, though perhaps not at the $19 billion price that Facebook met, and admitted that Office and Windows need “more than a tune up” to make them relevant for today’s mobile and cloud-focused computing environment. The full interview covers issues such as taxation, education, climate change and philanthropy, and is well worth checking out.

As for Edward Snowden, he can console himself that he has at least one fan in the Apple camp. Speaking at the CeBIT exhibition in Germany, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak praised the sacrifices that Snowden has made to raise awareness of the NSA’s operations: “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,” said Wozniak, as CNET reports. “I believe that Snowden believed, like I do, that the US has a right to freedom. He had the guts to and courage to sacrifice his life for a principle.”

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