It looks as if Red Hat has some work cut out for them if they care what impression folks in the FOSS community have about them. If the results of our Red Hat &the NSA poll are any indication, some people aren’t convinced that the most commercially successful Linux distro on the planet has clean hands when it comes to the whole NSA mess.
A few weeks back, in response to what I thought (and still think) were unfounded allegations that Red Hat has been working with the NSA spying efforts by doing things like building back doors into RHEL, we ran a poll that asked the simple question, “Do you think Red Hat is cooperating with the NSA by building back doors into RHEL?” The poll went up on January 23rd and was ended this afternoon.
If this were a scientific poll conducted under a strict set of rules, I would say that Red Hat is winning this PR issue and probably has no worries. However, this poll is very unscientific and the results are so close that I’d be a little concerned if I worked in the PR department at Red Hat.
First the good news–at least for the guys and gals wearing the red hats. 39% of those taking this poll answered “no,” meaning they don’t think there’s any collusion between the NSA and our favorite Linux success story company.
But 39% is far from a clear majority, especially when we look at the rest of the poll.
The bad news for Red Hat? 33% of those responding answered “yes,” that they thought Red Hat is cooperating by building secret access portals into RHEL for the NSA. This means that only six percentage points separates those who think Red Hat guilty and those who think their hands are clean, a figure that certainly falls within the margin of error for a completely unscientific poll such as this.
Making matters worse, at least as far as Red Hat is concerned, 28% of those taking the poll answered, “I don’t know.” Although it’s easy to discount this answer and give it little weight, I think it’s an important piece of the puzzle here because the figure is so high. I don’t think we can assume these people don’t know because they don’t care, since they evidently thought the issue important enough that they took the time to contribute to the poll. I think it’s probably the most intelligent answer, given the fact that none of us outside the inner santum of Red Hat knows for sure, not with the evidence at hand.
If Red Hat isn’t working hand-in-hand with the NSA in its efforts to spy on us, then this poll obviously represents a public relations problem for the Raleigh, North Carolina based company. Although it’s doubtful that many, if any, of those taking this poll are Red Hat customers, we can only assume that results such as we’re seeing here indicate a potential problem of perception even outside the free software community. It wouldn’t bode well for Red Hat if these sentiments were to spread to include it’s user base.