John Gruber calls for Post to retract Apple-Google article

From “A Spectacularly Bad Washington Post Story on Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification Project” posted Friday on Daring Fireball:

A Washington Post story today on Apple and Google’s joint effort on COVID-19 exposure notification project, from reporters Reed Albergotti and Drew Harwell, is the worst story I’ve seen in the Post in memory. It’s so atrociously bad — factually wrong and one-sided in opinion — that it should be retracted.

Start with the headline: “Apple and Google Are Building a Virus-Tracking System. Health Officials Say It Will Be Practically Useless.” It’s not a “virus-tracking system”, and the health officials the Post talked to don’t know what they’re talking about…

The gist of Apple and Google’s project is that it attempts to balance privacy with the usefulness of tracking potential exposure. It’s right there in the name of the project: “Privacy-Protecting Contact Tracing”. The Post’s sources for this story seemingly want a system with no regard for privacy at all. I wish that were an exaggeration.

My take: A classic Gruber takedown. Well deserved.


  1. Jerry Doyle said:
    IMHO there has been a lack of prudent judgement from the get-go in responding to COVID-19. In the absence of such judicious judgement governments and communities have adopted a myriad of targeted policies that forever is changing and evolving in dealing with the pandemic leaving a majority of citizens frustrated and angry at authorities.

    In its ineptness of dealing with the pandemic, governments at all levels and public health officials resort to gaining some semblance (or an illusion) of control by locking down everything. Quarantines have done no less than to distract authorities and communities from effective targeted interventions.

    When governments and public health officials in their desire for control assign citizens a mandate to quarantine at home, then we have emasculated individuals abilities for their potential contributions to resolve the crisis. (We didn’t quarantine after 9/11, even when we fear an explosive device could go off next to us in a crowded concert, mall, or downtown street).

    Only through individual exercise of personal initiative involving meaningful behavioral changes in sanitary practices can people gain understanding from their experience of confronting the adversity of the virus.

    Shutting down nations’ entire economies simply destroys large swaths of human lives while attempting to save a much smaller segment, many whose lives already were tenuous due to poor behavioral lifestyles accrued from years of benign neglect to their health.

    May 16, 2020
    • Steven Noyes said:
      I mostly agree with your sentiments. I think COVID-19 has shown how preparedness truly has to be done, mostly, at a local level with individuals taking responsibility for their own specific behaviors. Wyoming is not New York and Bismarck is not New Orleans. It also does not help SARS-CoV-2 acts differently than H1N1.

      I fear public policy has not adapted to new data as we find out about COVID-19. For example, most main stream news articles place R0 (in an unexposed unrestrained society) still at 2.0-2.4 where papers published 4 weeks ago show values of around 5.5. I would not be surprised if later data, taking into account asymptotic carriers, push it up to between 8-10 in some populations (NYC). I don’t know how to contact trace 1,000,000 infected people in a city.

      But what I am really concerned with is the long term mental health aspect of our reaction.
      * In February, 1:6 Americans were on antidepressants/anti-anxiety meds. We are now nearing 1:4. I think 1:6 is troubling. 1:4 is down-right freighting.
      * We have told 33,000,000 people they are not “essential”. At some level, that does not seem right.

      Suffering comes in so many forms and I fear we are trying to minimize one type of suffering while greatly expanding overall suffering.

      May 16, 2020
      • David Emery said:
        Planning for and conducting disaster response is a state responsibility, and that’s one of of the reasons why each state has its own National Guard and gets A Lot of federal funding, both military and non-military. (I worked in the NH State HQ in the group that did that kind of planning for a while in the ’90s.) So I get really upset about people pointing the fingers solely at the Federal Government over this (and hurricanes, etc). The Feds have a critical role, but so do the states. You should NOT let your state government off the hook if you’re not happy with Covid or other emergency response.

        In a country as large and diverse as the US, it seems to me that distributed responsibility and distributed response is A Good Thing. Not everything should be owned by and controlled by the Federal Government (and that’s true independent of which party controls the White House and Congress.)

        May 17, 2020
  2. David Emery said:
    We all know what this is really about. Anything that castigates Apple brings in the clicks.

    Journalism is dead. It’s all click-bait, to one degree or another. (WashPost and NYT chasing Pulitzers is just ‘click-bait, once removed’.)

    May 16, 2020
  3. Peter Kropf said:
    “WashPost and NYT chasing Pulitzers is just ‘click-bait, once removed.”


    May 16, 2020

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