The Way You Ask The Questions Matters: Reuters Poll Says People Support Apple Against FBI, But It's All In The Questions

from the stupid-questions,-stupid-answers dept

Earlier this week, we highlighted a questionable poll done by the Pew Research folks concerning the Apple/FBI fight, and noted that the actual questions it asked were wrong and misleading (and also leading...) and that resulted in fairly meaningless results, which were then spun by reporters into false claims that the public backed the FBI in this fight:
And then, just days later, Reuters/Ipsos released a poll of its own, saying... basically the exact opposite, and it's being spun to claim that there is "Solid support for Apple in iPhone encryption fight."
And, once again, the poll is basically meaningless when it comes to the actual issues in this case. You can read the details of the questions in the linked document, which shows that, before asking the key question, the pollsters asked a bunch of questions about whether or not people were willing to "give up privacy" to help the US government on a variety of things. And lots of people said no. These questions more or less framed the issue as one about protecting your own privacy -- as compared to the Pew poll that framed it more as being about investigating the San Bernardino attacks. Then after all those questions, the poll asks about the specifics of the Apple case, where they frame the question much more broadly than Pew's. Here's Reuters question:
Apple is opposing a court order to unlock a smart phone that was used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino attack. 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?
And, to refresh your memory, here's how Pew asked it:
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.
Notice that the Reuters/Ipsos version focuses solely on the downsides laid out by Apple, and not the supposed intent of the FBI. The Pew poll tries to "balance" the two. Meanwhile both polls get the basic facts wrong, because the request is not to "unlock a smart phone" because Apple cannot "unlock it." The actual ask is that it build a new operating system (which has some big challenges) that has purposely undermined two key security features on the iPhone, so that the FBI can then hack the passcode and access the phone. The specifics here matter and neither poll gets them right.

So while I, personally, think Apple is the one to support in this fight, I don't think either poll really says much about anything, other than that depending on how you word a poll, you can get very, very different results. That's really not particularly interesting as it pertains to the actual debate here. Stupid polls get stupid answers.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2016 @ 9:46am

    bad poll...

    The question should be...

    Should the government be allowed to decrypt and recover your dick pics to stop terrorism?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEVlyP4_11M

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TasMot (profile), 25 Feb 2016 @ 9:48am

    The only surprise here is that they still bother to actually ask the questions! I stopped answering phone polls once I realized that A) the poll was being done so that someone else can make money off of me and B) my answers really didn't matter, they questions were asked in such a way to elicit the answers they wanted and get the their desired results.
    Just like these two polls.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2016 @ 9:53am

    solid, unbiased reporting, good work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2016 @ 9:57am

      Re:

      Unbiased reporting does not exist.

      Just the act of choosing what story to run and not run creates a bias itself.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2016 @ 10:20am

        Re: Re:

        Unbiased reporting does not exist.

        Just the act of choosing what story to run and not run creates a bias itself.


        I find your comment to be highly biased.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2016 @ 3:00pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Bias is part of the "human nature".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2016 @ 3:22pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            So is discrimination. With out the ability to discriminate one would never be able to tell if they like peas and not carrots or hated broccoli but loved asparagus.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Apple Pie, 26 Feb 2016 @ 10:59am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Bias is part of the "human nature".

            Now its now part of every courtroom in America sitting on the desk before every prosecuting attorney.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Synergy Waffle (profile), 25 Feb 2016 @ 10:29am

    "The FBI has in its possession an iPhone that was used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. Because the phone is protected by full-disk encryption, the FBI is currently unable to access the data contained therein. Consequently, the FBI is attempting to compel Apple (who does not currently have a way of accessing the data stored on the phone) to create a new operating system and apply it to this phone. This operating system would downgrade the security of the PIN-entry mechanism on the phone so that the FBI could then brute-force the PIN. Should the FBI be allowed to compel Apple to comply with this request?"

    Fixed it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2016 @ 10:32am

    The actual ask is that it build a new operating system


    This is the third time in as many days that I've heard/seen ask used as a noun. What is going on? Is question or request too onerous to type now?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2016 @ 10:42am

    How hard can it be to comment out:

    nMaxFailBeforeWipe++;

    From the iOS codebase?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2016 @ 10:50am

      Re:

      Just how hard would it be for you to enter pins and passwords when law enforcement asks you to?
      The question is not the difficulty, but can the FBI compel a software compare to write code to make their job a lot easier.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whoever, 25 Feb 2016 @ 11:12am

    Wasted money

    All that money spent "because terrorism" would save far more lives if most of it were spent on road safety improvements.

    Spending nothing on terrorism would probably be a bad move, but the billions spent on terrorism today save a minuscule number of lives.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2016 @ 11:48am

      Re: Wasted money

      The only reason they have in saving lives is dead people only pay taxes once, not ongoing. Oh, and it sounds good in campaign sound bites. Wasting money is how they support those that supported them with election contributions.

      It is all about control and power.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 25 Feb 2016 @ 11:54am

      Zero-dollar budget on the War on Terror

      I disagree

      I bet if we spent zero on terrorism, and treated acts of terror as just nasty violent crimes (the way we regard domestic terror), and could agree as a society that terror is an elemental effect like natural disasters, and we should just prepare to suffer terror once in a while...

      ...that not only would we relax better as a society but the terror effort from the Islamic State would dry up inside a couple of years.

      They do it because we are terrorized. They do it because we throw massive amounts of money and resources to fighting it. They do it because our reactions give them recognition as a legitimate enemy.

      They do it because it makes spectacular news in which they are down- and center-stage.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Socrates, 25 Feb 2016 @ 2:39pm

        Re: Zero-dollar budget on the War on Terror

        True

        And this applies to the FBI too (and the rest of the security theater). FBI even make fake terrorists regularly. IS and FBI share an interest in a scared US population.

        IMHO, it should be enough crime to keep FBI occupied without these scams. There is hundreds of thousands of rape kits laying waiting to be analyzed in the US.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2016 @ 12:24am

          Re: Re: Zero-dollar budget on the War on Terror

          In a democracy you make people do what you want by scaring them.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2016 @ 4:46am

            Re: Re: Re: Zero-dollar budget on the War on Terror

            No, no ,no. In a tyranny you keep people scared to make them do what you want; in a democracy the people keep the politicians scared so that they do what the people want.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              That One Guy (profile), 26 Feb 2016 @ 6:28am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Zero-dollar budget on the War on Terror

              'You have democracy when the government fears the people, and tyranny when the people fear the government.'

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 26 Feb 2016 @ 4:35am

    So when phrased the way Reuters did over 40% of Americans would gleefully give up their privacy and their rights to fight a boogeyman. Scary.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Using MY Brain, 26 Feb 2016 @ 10:53am

    P.I.S.S.E.D.

    A third party encryption network could safely store all encrypted data ONLY to be de-crypted upon a State Department Warrant or request when the safety and national security is at risk might smartly be named:
    Peoples Initiative for Securely Stored Encrypted Data or:

    PISSED

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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