New poll says public sides with Apple over FBI in resisting iPhone unlock order

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Public support for Apple's refusal to unlock an iPhone 5c used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook appears to be leaning in the company's favor, according to poll results published on Wednesday.

In online interviews run between Feb. 19 and 23, 46 percent of Americans supported Apple's resistance, while 35 percent disagreed, Reuters/Ipsos found. 20 percent of the poll group said they didn't know.

Positions appear to be closely linked to political views, since while 54 percent of Democrats supported Apple, only 37 percent of Republicans did. Likewise, 53 percent of Republicans agreed with the idea that the government should be able to peer into smartphone data to protect against terrorism, while the figure was only 46 percent for Democrats. Overall support for anti-terror smartphone snooping was also 46 percent.

Another influential factor appears to be age, as 64 percent of people between 18 and 39 sided with Apple.

Some 55 percent of the poll group believed that the government would use the ability to unlock iPhones to "spy on iPhone users." 28 percent disagreed.

While the FBI is asking only for a way to remove iOS' passcode retry limit, Apple has argued that doing so would fundamentally compromise the platform's security. With the limit off, investigators should be able to brute-force their way into Farook's phone without the device auto-deleting its data.

Apple is expected to rely on the First Amendment in contesting the unlock order, arguing that the FBI can't compel speech in the form of new computer code. The company may not have any precedent to fall back on, however.


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