Steve Wozniak may not be an active part of Apple anymore, but there’s no question which side he’s on in its ongoing battle with the government.
On Wednesday, Wozniak participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session, fielding questions about the beginnings of Apple, Tim Cook’s tenure as CEO, and the best prank he’s ever pulled. But the session’s top question was simple.
“What are your thoughts on the FBI/DOJ vs Apple ordeal at the moment?” redditor c20_h25_n3_O asked.
Wozniak didn’t shy away. He wrote about his personal philosophy on technology, that it should “make the human more important than the technology,” and that part of humanity is a right to privacy, something that has not always been guaranteed in parts of the world like the Soviet Union under Stalin.
Toward the end of his post, Wozniak addressed malicious code, or viruses. He said that twice in his life he had written harmful programs. He deleted them, down to the source code, but the experience taught him that there will always be people who will seek to exploit vulnerabilities. That knowledge, he said, made it clear that a backdoor into Apple’s code would inevitably be used by the wrong people.
“These [viruses] are dangerous, dangerous things, and if some code gets written in an Apple product that lets people in, bad people are going to find their way to it, very likely,” Wozniak wrote.
Here is his full comment on privacy, humanity, and Apple’s digital integrity.
All through my time with personal computers from the start, I developed an attitude that things like movement towards newer, better technologies - like the Macintosh computer, like the touchscreen of the iPhone - that these were making the human more important than the technology. We did not have to modify our ways of living. So the human became very important to me. And how do you represent what humanity is?
You know what, I have things in my head, some very special people in my life that I don’t talk about, that mean so much to me from the past. Those little things that I keep in my head are my little secrets. It’s a part of my important world, my whole essence of my being. I also believe in honesty. If you tell somebody, “I am not snooping on you,” or, “I am giving you some level of privacy; I will not look in your drawers,” then you should keep your word and be honest. And I always try to avoid being a snoop myself, and it’s rare in time that we can look back and say, “How should humans be treated?” Not, “How can the police run everything?”
I was brought up in a time when communist Russia under Stalin was thought to be, everybody is spied on, everybody is looked into, every little thing can get you secretly thrown into prison. And, no. We had our Bill of Rights. And it’s just dear to me. The Bill of Rights says some bad people won’t do certain bad things because we’re protecting humans to live as humans.
So, I come from the side of personal liberties. But there are also other problems. Twice in my life I wrote things that could have been viruses. I threw away every bit of source code. I just got a chill inside. These are dangerous, dangerous things, and if some code gets written in an Apple product that lets people in, bad people are going to find their way to it, very likely.
Wozniak also shared his thoughts on lighter issues, like one of his favorite pranks — a ticking metronome in the back of someone’s locker that sped up when they opened the door (something a redditor pointed out could get you sent to jail now). He said he “approved very strongly” of Apple CEO Tim Cook, but wasn’t a big fan of the Apple Watch’s marketing.
“I mean I love my Apple Watch, but - it’s taken us into a jewelry market where you’re going to buy a watch between $500 or $1100 based on how important you think you are as a person. The only difference is the band in all those watches. Twenty watches from $500 to $1100. The band’s the only difference?”
Wozniak also did an interview with Reddit’s Formative series, where he discusses the early days of Apple. Watch it below.