Pew Asks Stupid Misleading Question About FBI Apple Fight, Gets Stupid Misleading Answers

from the shocking,-I-know dept

The folks over at Pew Research usually do pretty good work, but they decided to weigh in on the Apple / FBI backdoor debate by asking a really dumb poll question — the results of which are now being used to argue that the public supports the FBI over Apple by a pretty wide margin.

But, of course, as with everything in polling, the questions you ask and how you phrase them are pretty much everything. And here’s the thing. The question asked was:

As you may know, RANDOMIZE: [the FBI has said that accessing the iPhone is an important part of their ongoing investigation into the San Bernardino attacks] while [Apple has said that unlocking the iPhone could compromise the security of other users? information] do you think Apple [READ; RANDOMIZE]?

(1) Should unlock the iPhone (2) Should not unlock the iPhone (3) Don’t Know.

But that’s not the issue in this case!

As noted in the past, when it’s possible for Apple to get access to data, it has always done so in response to lawful court orders. That’s similar to almost every other company as well. This case is different because it’s not asking Apple to “unlock the iPhone.” The issue is that Apple cannot unlock the iPhone and thus, the FBI has instead gotten a court order to demand that Apple create an entirely new operating system that undermines the safety and security of iPhones, so that the FBI can hack into the iPhone. That’s a really different thing.

And it does a massive disservice by Pew to (1) ask the wrong question and then (2) make people think that the public supports the FBI’s view when Pew itself misrepresented the issues in the case in the first place. And of course, the mainstream media, like the Washington Post (who normally is better than this) puts out a bullshit story claiming that “Apple is fighting a war most Americans don’t believe in.” But that’s not what the poll actually says. You’d think that reporters might actually take the time to understand the story and the poll first, but apparently that’s too difficult, as compared to the easy, if misleading headline.

As Ed Snowden himself pointed out, this is nothing more than misinformation:

But even that’s not entirely accurate. In this case, it really seems like the fault is with Pew for asking a misleading question over an issue that is not up for debate here. And the press is similarly at fault for running with it and appearing to not understand either. Yes, the government is partially responsible for being misleading, but in this case, I’d put them third in line behind Pew and reporters. If people were accurately informed and actually understood the real issues, the poll would likely be quite different. But Pew didn’t bother to understand the issue, and asked a questions that totally misrepresents the issue to the point that the results are actually completely meaningless to the ongoing debate.

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Companies: apple, pew

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Comments on “Pew Asks Stupid Misleading Question About FBI Apple Fight, Gets Stupid Misleading Answers”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The name says it all

That doesn’t quite work as irony here… while Mike might be biased, the Pew survey is straight-up factually incorrect. Apple cannot unlock the suspect’s phone because 1) Apple doesn’t have that ability, 2) there’s no suspect (the guy is known to have killed people; the evidence is already in).

The FBI wants to unlock the phone, by compelling Apple to write and deploy new software that bypasses security checks, so that it can brute force the 4-digit PIN.

Thus, you could say “should not unlock” to the survey and still agree with what the FBI wants.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The thing that scares me about this...

Please SCOTUS has been LONG corrupt and ignorant of the law. No one even pretends that these cases will not be decided based on Political Factors instead of the law.

They have thoroughly stained their own souls, I cannot imagine any Creator appreciating a hypocrite regardless of your religion and holy fucking shit is that court just stacked to high heavens with nothing but hypocrites!

They will definitely side with the FBI because they would be too scared to go against them and the military industrial Spy Machine now flexing their muscles.

We are at the door step of a very possible silent coup in America. The information being gathered makes corrupting political officials of all areas by a central power player is just to damn easy now.

It’s like we are just begging to lose our nation to tyranny.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The thing that scares me about this...

I disagree. The SCOTUS is likely afraid to rule on the key issues here (All Writs, etc), but I’m sure they’ll find some technical (in a legal sense) issue that will stop this particular case from going forward while at the same time not closing the doors on it being used again in the future. They’ll also give the FBI some guidance on how to re-file the request to get what they want without using the All Writs Act.

Reggie says:

Re: The thing that scares me about this...

Riley v. California was unanimous in favor of the defendant (the smart phone case in 2014). They are not always as stupid as you think. The Aero issue wasn’t a lack of understanding at all. It was the SCOTUS, as usual, doing the behest of big(ger) corporations, no different than the recent AT&T decision on class actions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: News at 10

not a chance, anyone dumb enough to trust an organization literally designed from the ground up to drive political information campaigns cannot be trusted.

The poll itself is neither here nor there, and no matter how many fucking Agencies or waste of life Americans want it… according to the Constitution or the All Writs act, the court cannot actually compel apple in this way.

All Writs is not a magic fucking genie like they make it out to be. The orders have to be agreeable to the usages and principals of the law, and this order just is fucking not!

That One Guy (profile) says:

'And this is relevant how?'

It seems the perfect response to anyone who brought up this in an attempt to show that the public is on the FBI’s side here is to point out that the question and the results regarding it are completely useless, given it has nothing to do with what’s actually going on.

Great, barely more than half of those polled think that Apple should do something that it hasn’t been asked to do, how informative. Other than exposing how much Pew screwed up in wording their question(whether intentional or accidental) the result is completely useless to the pro-FBI people, as it doesn’t accurately reflect what’s actually happening.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 'And this is relevant how?'

Yes, this just smacks of Pew trying to tell Apple that the Majority of Americans are against it in attempts to cow them.

It might work, Apple as well as most other businesses have shown their willingness to screw customers over as long as it cannot come back to bite them in the ass, and now that it looks like it will Apple is actually going to fight.

Apple’s game just got called and they are in a fucking pickle.

At least the consistently corrupt Bill Gates is being honest for once and fully supporting the FBI’s request. Someone needs to tell that guy to wipe the corner of his lips and that no amount of philanthropy he does to buy public opinion off is going to cleanse his shit stained soul.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 'And this is relevant how?'

I wouldn’t say it’s useless to the pro-FBI people. It’s very useful to them. It’s useless to people like you and me and most of those who read and comment here that use critical thinking based on relevant facts to make informed decisions on issues of the day. However, many people don’t have the time or desire to dig below the surface of what they are spoon fed through the mainstream media and the pro-FBI people aren’t using this to try to convince you to side with them, they are using this to try to convince them and in THAT endeavor, it is very useful to them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Whether you are a sheep or not is immaterial to the nature of the article.

The article is pointing out an obviously corrupt poll, which is something that constantly needs attention.

Maybe you are a sheep, and like most other sheep, refusing to recognize the wool growing on your back?

We here in the technical community already accept that most people are detrimentally ignorant about technology, especially in government, so we seek to turn the tide where ever possible. Unfortunately, the unwashed masses, seem to be overpowering.

fincoder22 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Maybe the unwashed masses don’t need to know the technical details because they have a natural bullshit detector that tells them that there is more to the story here.
If you are one of the Apple disciples you might not realize it, but the truth is that Apple at this point is just as evil as the guvment. Apple’s current grandstanding is a clever and cynical ploy to make us believe that the cupertino folks will watch over our data and never, ever give it to the evil FBI. Right…. dream on. That horse has left the barn a long time ago. When they finally capitulate to the justice department a few weeks from now, at least they can say that they did everything they could to resist. However, in reality they already know how to unlock this iphone and are just playing this PR opportunity for all it’s worth.

katie higgins (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re; Re:Re:

fincoder22, I wonder why the demographics of Apple’s design /developer engineers and their executives don’t match up with the bottom feeding sub-species that you claim to know they are?

So, you think it is good PR for Apple to appear to be resisting doing what they already know how to do * ?? wouldn’t it have been better to comply w/ FBI requests, and not take a stance that pushed this to a court order demand?

What media source would report that Apple is hacking their customers phones for the FBI, who will no doubt find lots of other uses for Apple’s kind assistance? Any real danger that Apple customers would get a heads up on THIS?

There is only one technical detail that the unwashed masses needs to know. Apple cannot benefit from giving the key that unlocks our data to the FBI– there is no payoff that can rival the market they created by making secure iPhones.

This matter has been publicized because there are no bottom feeders working for Apple. What the FBI could not obtain via subversive tactics, they are pursuing by use of force.

BTW, technical genius is not required to conclude that THIS particular iPhone is highly unlikely to harbor data that qualifies as vital to National Security. In fact, it would be the least likely device used by this couple for any endeavor that could be connected to their *terrorist activities.

The emotionally charged inflammatory MIS-information is FBI/government PR.

fincoder22 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re; Re:Re:

katie higgins, I think the Apple design engineers are fine people and I’m sure they all are going to “make the world a better place” and all that, but Apple executives are in a different league. Apple is a tax evading multi billion dollar corporation, stashing more cash off shore than most small country’s GDP, manufacturing products in low labor cost countries, pouring millions into campaign contributions and lobbying fees. They are behaving like a typical amoral corporation. It has nothing to do with the low level design engineers and programmers working on OS design and security features.

Apple has already admitted that they can easily “create” an insecure ios version and put in on the iPhone in question. They just don’t want to be in a position where the FBI and others can do it without their involvement or be constantly forced to do so on hundreds of iPhones. They are using some obfuscation to tell the world that if they do this, pandora’s box will open and no iPhone will ever be secure. I happen to believe this is total bullshit. They can certainly do this. It’s not even a technical challenge. They can discard/destroy the insecure ios version after they are done with it. This is obviously not the real issue. So if PEW asks in a survey if “Apple should unlock the phone”, they are asking the right question. That’s all Apple is asked to do and it’s the only thing they should do.

katie higgins (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re; Re:

fincoder22, There is nothing amoral about refusing to be the FBI’s undercover puppies. If Apple hadn’t turned down this offer, we would not be talking about the bodacious court order.

You are entitled to your opinion about Apple executives— but you won’t have much to back up your theory that they are using this FBI power grab for their own PR, unless you can explain why this particular government issued iPhone , is the one that brought this issue to the public— without using the word, “terrorist threat”.

AS for the PEW survey, I don’t think the public should be asked to weigh in on a decision that involves technical knowledge and experience with the hacker community– that is not a reasonable expectation of general public knowledge.

Maybe you would like PEW to survey whether or not you should have brain surgery?

fincoder22 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re; Re:

Katie Higgins: read this:

The problem here is that Apple is not just an amoral multi-billion dollar corporation but has somehow convinced it’s customers that they are “a different, better type of company”. The typical Apple customers worship the Apple products with a scary cult-like intensity. It’s a very dangerous combination: Big corporate $$$ with a cult-like following. That’s why the comments on this site are so over the top. A more rational person would look at this from more than one angle and see if a balance can be found to help the FBI solve individual cases without putting digital data security at risk for everyone. I’m betting you are an Apple devotee yourself the way you are using emotional defensive arguments not based on any facts.

From the article:

During the interview, Cook said, “The only way to get information, at least currently the only way we know, would be to write a piece of software that we view as sort of the software equivalent of cancer.”
Responding to that quote, Sonnenfeld said, “What he’s done is he’s resorted to something, forgive me, but close to demagoguery. The definition of demagoguery is what you just heard there, is when you appeal to people’s emotions and passions and prejudice over rational judgment.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You must ask the right question...

It would be really cool to require every survey to have a question like this on it, so that when someone actually writes something other than ‘seriously?’ or 0 on it the survey gets scratched and put in the too stupid to survey pile with its own set of statistics and advertised to show Americans how many fucktards walk among us so that we may be constantly reminded of what is at stake.


Re: Re: You must ask the right question...

Except you are making the mistake of taking the survey at face value. Ultimately, someone is paying for that survey and they are doing it in attempt to prove a point. They are trying to prove THEIR point. The survey is just something to support their pet agenda. It’s very much bought and paid for.

Been there… done that…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: You must ask the right question...

Don’t worry, just because I think it would be cool or interesting to see it does not mean I do not think you are right.

The nature of every poll is to drive public opinion. There is just absolutely no reason to trust a single one of them because they dumb down issues to unreasonable levels and wind up subverting the original message to being with.

John (profile) says:

I think Pew asked the right question. Pew did not tell the consequence of either decision, whereas Reuters asks the question providing only Apple’s view:

“…Apple is concerned that if it helps the FBI this time, it will be forced to help the government in future cases that may not be linked to national security, opening the door for hackers and potential future data breaches for smartphone users. Do you agree or disagree with Apple’s decision to oppose the court order?”

Reuters could have went the other way, and provided only the FBI’s point of view, such as:

“The FBI is concerned ISIL and other terror groups are taking advantage of safe havens to carry out fatal attacks on US soil. The FBI insists that the software update affects only this terrorist’s phone, and that only Apple can do it with a judge’s transparent approval. Do you agree or disagree with the judge’s decision to grant the FBI access?”

So, as you see, the Reuter’s poll was actually quite skewed in wording. But emotions made us think that Pew’s was biased, when in fact it is the contrary.

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