Update: Gates now claims he was "blindsided" by the Financial Times' characterization of his views and has clarified them — somewhat? — in a short discussion with Bloomberg:
Bill Gates has spoken to the Financial Times to discuss the dispute between Apple and the U.S. government. If you've not been following our coverage, the FBI has requested Apple provide access to a locked iPhone, enabling the agency to extract potential information behind the passcode. Tim Cook fought out against the request and called providing said access a "back door," which could then be deployed for all smartphones.
The Microsoft founder, while appearing sympathetic with Apple's position on waiting for the high court, took issue with how Cook characterized the order as providing a back door. Gates explains that this is a specific case where the government is requesting information, and is not seeking a tool which can be deployed to snoop on the general public. From the interview with the Financial Times:
"It is no different than 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'."
The iPhone in question was used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, and the FBI has reiterated that only strict access to this particular handset was requested. While Gates took a rather neutral stand, he did note that should access be shared, rules need to be abided by on when information can be accessed by government bodies.
"I hope that we have that debate so that the safeguards are built and so people do not opt — and this will be country by country — it is better that the government does not have access to any information."
Whichever side you may be on, it's a fine balance between protecting citizens and respecting the privacy of an individual. For now, rallies are being arranged by members of the public who wish to take a stand against the FBI in this particular case.