Apple has created or supported more than 500,000 jobs. Phishing attacks cost the economy $234 billion a year. And giving social and mobile CRM tools to salespeople makes them 26.4 percent more productive. All these preposterous numbers are floating around the Web these days, peddled by PR people who count on easy hooks to sell their products, burnish their clients' images, or advance an agenda.
Apple's attempt at statistical flimflammery is the most offensive because it's a transparent attempt to change the public conversation about Apple from the question of atrocious labor practices in the Chinese factories that make iPhones and iPads to job creation. (Of course, yesterday's announcement of "the new iPad" will help in the diversion as well.)
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The misuse of statistics and the preparation of allegedly scientific surveys designed to fool is spread across the Web by the axis of fakery: tech companies, PR agencies, and gullible (or feckless) journalists. Taking a cue from our friends at NPR's "Car Talk," I'll periodically call "Bogus!" on the most egregious examples of statistical and survey fakery by tech companies and their agents. I encourage you to spot them and forward them to Tech's Bottom Line for the ridicule they deserve.
Bogus security tales and phish stories
One of the most persistent offenders is the security industry, particularly the companies that sell antimalware products to consumers. Not a week passes without at least one, and usually more, attempts by PR folks to sell me on a story about a terrible new security threat.
Case in point, the subject line of an email sent to me this week: "233.4 million phish/day costs $230B/year." The email came from a PR person representing Agari, which sells -- you guessed it -- email security products, including antiphishing tools.
I won't mention her name -- I don't pick on individuals unless they're CEOs -- but when I pushed the PR person to provide substantiation, she said, "Cisco did a study a while ago, but we can't find the link." She also mentioned another unavailable study, by IID and Wachovia, that purports to show each successful phishing episode knocks nearly $2,000 off the brand equity of companies that are hit and costs IT departments $780 to clean up after each attack. A few minutes later, she backed off a bit, saying in another email that the annual cost of phishing is just $98 billion. So which is it?
Apple's bogus labor study
Here's what Apple posted on its website last week: "Throughout our history, Apple has created entirely new products -- and entirely new industries -- by focusing on innovation. As a result, we've created or supported more than 500,000 jobs for U.S. workers: from the engineer who helped invent the iPad to the delivery person who brings it to your door."
Breaking down those stats, Apple says it is responsible for 304,000 current jobs across a wide array of industries, including engineering, manufacturing, and transportation, as well as another 210,000 in the "app economy."