Last week, Apple was served a court order requesting that it generate software for the FBI so that the agency can gain access to the iPhone 5c used by San Bernardino shooting suspect Rizwan Farook. As the situation stands now, the FBI is faced with overcoming a security feature that will wipe the device if the passcode is entered incorrectly 10 times. The FBI wants to bypass this feature so that it can use “brute force” to gain access to the device by manually entering an indefinite number of passcode entries.
According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, nearly half of the American population is siding with Apple, which is fighting the court order and has indicated its reluctance to generate software that would help the FBI. The government agency says this simple “tool” would be used on this specific iPhone, but Apple says that the government wants a completely new operating system void of specific security features that would essentially provide a back door to iOS.
The poll results, release on Wednesday, show that 46 percent of those whoparticipated in the poll side with Apple, and that 35 percent of the participants disagree with Apple’s decision to oppose the court order. Around 20 percent of the participants were unsure.
The poll also asked participants, who were interviewed online between February 19 and February 23, if the government should be allowed to look at data stored on the phones of Americans as part of the process of protecting the country against terror threats. A surprising 46 percent agree with this statement while 42 percent disagreed.
Participants were also asked if they think cyber criminals will soon be able to steal data from locked iPhones if Apple is forced to unlock the controversial iPhone 5c for the government: 27 percent strongly agreed, 27 percent somewhat agreed, 14 percent somewhat disagreed, and 20 percent were not sure.
The Reuters poll didn’t primarily focus on Apple and the FBI. Participants were asked if they would give up privacy of their email accounts if it would help the government “foil” foreign terrorist plots. Unsurprisingly, 69 percent of those surveyed did not agree to the idea while 31 percent said yes. When asked about domestic terrorist plots, 71 percent said no while 29 percent said yes.
The poll goes on to show that the majority of Americans want to keep their text messages, phone records, and Internet activities private despite the US government’s desire to thwart local and international terrorist threats. Most of the “no” answers ranged from 70 to 79 percent, indicating that the government will likely hit a brick wall when asking nicely for access to private information.
Finally, the poll reveals which party sides with Apple in the dispute. Regarding Apple’s decision to oppose the court order, 37 percent of the polled Republicans agree with the company while 45 percent disagree. For the Democrats, 54 percent agree and 31 percent disagree.
On the topic of the government having access to data stored on Americans’ smart phones, 54 percent of the Republicans polled agreed with the idea while 38 percent did not. On the Democrats side, 46 percent agreed and 43 percent did not.
Reuters reports that younger Americans are more likely to side with Apple than the older population. Participants between the ages of 18 and 39 were asked to agree or disagree with Apple’s opposition; 64 percent agreed, which Reuters says is nearly twice the percentage of the older participants who sided with Apple’s stance.
To read the entire poll, check out the PDF here.