Most Americans are not willing or able to use a contact tracing app

Apple and Google have released the first version of their COVID-19 contact tracing app API (they’ve rebranded it as “exposure notification”) in a new developer release. The firms are looking to collect feedback from developers who will be using the API to create new contact tracing (“exposure notification”) apps.

In the U.S., it’s very likely a quixotic exercise, as nearly 3 in 5 Americans say they are either unable or unwilling to use the infection-alert system under development by Apple and Google. These findings strongly suggest that it will be difficult to persuade enough people to use the app to make it effective against the coronavirus pandemic, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds.

Craig Timberg, Drew Harwell, and Alauna Safarpour for The Washington Post:

contact tracing app The effort faces several major barriers, including that approximately 1 in 6 Americans do not have smartphones, which would be necessary for running any apps produced by the initiative. Rates of smartphone ownership are much lower among seniors, who are particularly vulnerable to the ravages of covid-19, with just over half of those aged 65 or older saying that they have a smartphone (53 percent). Rates are even lower for those 75 and older, according to the Post-U. Md. poll.

Among the 82 percent of Americans who do have smartphones, willingness to use an infection-tracing app is split evenly, with 50 percent saying they definitely or probably would use such an app and an equal percentage saying they probably or definitely would not.

Among Americans overall, 41 percent say they both have a smartphone and are willing to use an infection-tracking app, the poll finds. Oxford University researchers have suggested that 60 percent of a country’s population would need to use a coronavirus-tracking app like this to stop the viral spread. Reduced adoption could limit its effectiveness in slowing new infections and deaths.

Singapore’s TraceTogether app, which launched last month, has been downloaded by approximately a fifth of the population. In Australia, more than 2 million people have downloaded the government’s COVIDSafe app since its Sunday release — about 8 percent of the country’s 25 million people.

MacDailyNews Take: Shocker. Furthermore, that 41 percent of Americans who say they both have a smartphone and are willing to use an contact tracing app is a poll, not a real-world, result. People tell pollsters things that they end up not doing. That number will be much lower than 41%. As in: less than half. Even in Singapore, where citizens generally follow the government’s rules, only 20% of the population have Singapore’s contact tracing app installed. More about the myriad issues of Bluetooth COVID-19 contact tracing apps can be found in our previous Takes here and here.


      1. Yes, but regardless, MDN was and is correct to point out that contact tracing apps won’t work due to widespread lack of compliance, among other issues MDN has already explained.

        1. True. True. Looking at just those people who have smart phones though, 50/50 reflects those who trust the government with everything up to wiping their asses, and who wouldn’t even trust the government to wipe their asses.

          1. Mass hysteria occurred during the 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic. Millions of people rushed to groceries stores in order to purchase toilet paper, believing that the world would run out. People predicted millions of deaths and closed global economies, killing many businesses and jobs and causing mass anxiety, to later realize that the death toll would be not much worse than the 2009 swine flu pandemic, which claimed 150,000 to 575,000 lives worldwide.


            1. Somebody jumped out of an airplane with a parachute and survived, so the parachute was unnecessary.

              Millions survived with social distancing, so the distancing was unnecessary.

    1. If You Are Still Wondering How Death Camps Happen Just Take a Look Around You

      When I was in college, one of the landmark psychological experiments with which everyone was familiar was the so-called Stanford Prison Experiment. In this experiment, students were divided into ‘guards’ and ‘prisoners’ and the study claimed to find that the students chosen to be ‘guards’ quickly embraced authoritarian, even sadistic, behavior towards the ‘prisoners.’ There has been a lot of discussion on this over the years and attempts to discredit it, but, I think, whatever its methodological shortcomings, that exercise was prescient in regards to the Wuhan virus panic.

      Let’s examine some happenings in the recent weeks. A father was arrested and handcuffed for playing on a deserted playground in Colorado. In Idaho, a mother was taken away in handcuffs for having her young daughter outside on the playground.

      What does all of this have in common?

      Our freedoms are in a very fragile state. When you look at the actions of our police departments and of many of our fellow citizens it is very easy to see how extermination camps happen. An extraordinary number of Americans are ready and willing, some gleefully so, to bring down the force of the state on fellow citizens who are no danger to them and who are minding their own business. Police departments are perfectly willing to treat nonthreatening and law abiding citizens as though they were hardened criminals.

      There are several lessons we should take away from this experience.

      First, like a wild beast that has tasted human blood, government has found the magic potion to rid itself of the US Constitution. That potion is a ‘public health crisis.’ If you think this is not going to be reenacted at state and local level in the future, you really need to wake up.

      Read more here.

      “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” ― Ronald Reagan

      1. When somebody is endangering public health and will not comply voluntarily, damn right they should be arrested, just like drunk drivers, rioters, and other criminals who threaten public safety. Your freedom to kill yourself does not extend to a “right” to kill senior citizens and others with impaired immune systems. If you can’t accept the rules of an organized society, I understand that most of Somalia and Yemen provide an idyllic life without taxes or government interference.

        1. So if you got me sick from the normal flu and I died, I guess that would make you a murderer, right? Except with the normal flu it would be considered a tragedy. See where this is going lightbulb?

        2. Your reply is everything that’s wrong with America today. A nation of coddled pussies will fall quickly. Perhaps that’s your actual goal.

          “In America we say if anyone gets hurt, we will ban it for everyone everywhere for all time. And before we know it, everything is banned.” — Professor Jonathan Haidt

          It’s a common refrain: We have bubble-wrapped the world. Americans in particular are obsessed with “safety.” The simplest way to get any law passed in America, be it a zoning law or a sweeping reform of the intelligence community, is to invoke a simple sentence: “A kid might get hurt.”

          Almost no one is opposed to reasonable efforts at making the world a safer place. But the operating word here is “reasonable.” Banning lawn darts, for example, rather than just telling people that they can be dangerous when used by unsupervised children, is a perfect example of a craving for safety gone too far.

          Beyond the realm of legislation, this has begun to infect our very culture. Think of things like “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces.” These are part of broader cultural trends in search of a kind of “emotional safety” – a purported right to never be disturbed or offended by anything. This is by no means confined to the sphere of academia, but is also in our popular culture, both in “extremely online” and more mainstream variants.

          Why are Americans so obsessed with safety? What is the endgame of those who would bubble wrap the world, both physically and emotionally? Perhaps most importantly, what can we do to turn back the tide and reclaim our culture of self-reliance, mental toughness, and giving one another the benefit of the doubt so that we don’t “bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security,” as President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about?Sam Jacobs

          1. If you were born before 1985 or so, your childhood was vastly different than of those born after you. As a child, you probably came and went as you pleased, letting your parents know where you were going, who you would be with and when you might be home. You rode your bike without a helmet and if you were bullied at school there’s a good chance that you view this as a character-building experience, not one of deep emotional trauma.

            So what happened?

            A few things. First, in 1984, the “missing child” milk carton was introduced. America became obsessed with child abduction in response to several high-profile child kidnappings over the period of a few years. Etan Platz, Adam Walsh and Johnny Gosch are just three of the names known to Americans during this time period. In September 1984, the Des Moines, Iowa-based Anderson Erickson Dairy began printing the pictures of Johnny Gosch and Eugene Martin on milk cartons. Chicago followed suit, then the entire state of California. In December 1984, a nationwide program was launched to keep the faces of abducted children front and center in the American mind.

            The milk cartons didn’t find many kids, but they did create the panic of “stranger danger,” where children were taught to fear strangers even though the lion’s share of child abduction, molestation and abuse comes from friends, family and other trusted figures such as public school teachers or camp counselors. Most missing children in America are runaways and in 99 percent of all child abductions, the perpetrator is a non-custodial father. There is at least one case of “stranger danger” being harmful – a lost 11-year-old Boy Scout who thought his rescuers were looking to kidnap him.

            Some of the protocols established out of this were useful, such as AMBER Alerts and Code Adam. Awareness of child abduction in general was raised and as a result there’s significantly fewer child abductions today than there were in 1980. Indeed, stranger abduction is incredibly rare in the United States. But this has come with a dark side.

            You might be familiar with the myriad of cases in suburban America where children playing alone are arrested by the police because they don’t have adult supervision. The parents are then questioned by the police or, in some cases, the state’s Child Protective Services.

            There was also the panic after the mass shooting at Columbine High School, which led to the bubble wrapping of schools alongside the home. “Zero tolerance” policies were implemented alongside school-wide peanut butter bans.

            And so the result is that there are at least two generations of American children raised in a protective net so tight that they not only have trouble expressing themselves, but also being exposed to failure and discomfort. What began as a good-faith effort to prevent child abduction and increase overall child welfare has ended up, as a side effect, creating a world where children were raised in such safety that they can’t even handle being upset.

            This has not only insulated children from the consequences of their own actions and the normal pains of growing up, but also gives the impression that no matter what their problems, “adults” are ready to step in and save the day at any moment.

            It’s worth noting that, in recent years, there has been a sharp rise in mental illness among young people, both on campus and off, including those with severe mental health problems. — Sam Jacobs

            1. Social media makes it easier for extremes to amplify their anger. What’s more, it’s much easier for people to become part of an online crusade – or witch hunt – than it is for them to do so without it.

              This is a big part of what is behind the string of disinvitations and protests on American college campuses. No one, especially young people (where “young” means “under 30”), can bear to listen to the opinions of someone they don’t agree with. Disinvitations aren’t limited to highly controversial figures like MILO and Richard Spencer, or even the decidedly much more vanilla Ann Coulter. Condoleeza Rice, the first black female Secretary of State, was disinvited in 2014, as was the first female head of the IMF and the first female finance minister of a G8 nation, Christine Lagarde.

              Because Americans increasingly refuse even to listen to arguments from the other side, inserting instead a strawman in favor of reasoned debate, there is no reason to believe that the American political and ideological divide will not increase.Sam Jacobs

            2. America and the West have largely adopted a victimhood culture. It is worth taking a minute to trace this radical transformation of values in the West from its origins.

              The earliest societies in the West were honor cultures. While it sounds like a no-brainer that we should return to an honor culture, we should unpack precisely what this means. An honor culture usually means a lot of interpersonal violence. Small slights must be dealt with through dead violence – because a gentleman cannot take any kind of stain on his honor. Dueling and blood feuds are common in these kinds of cultures.

              This is superseded by dignity culture. Dignity culture is different, because people are presumed to have dignity regardless of what others think of them. In a dignity culture, people are admired because they have a “thick skin” and are able to brush off slights even if they are seriously insulting. While we might find ourselves offended, even rightfully so, it is considered important to rise above the offense and conduct ourselves with dignity. Everyone heard some variant of “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” growing up as a child. This is perhaps the key phrase of a dignity culture.

              Victimhood culture is concerned with status in a similar manner to honor culture. Indeed, people become incredibly intolerant of any kind of perceived slight, much in the manner of an honor culture. However, in a victimhood culture, it is being offended, taking offense, and being a victim that provides one with status.

              Victimhood culture means that people are divided into classes, where victims are good and oppressors are bad. There is an eternal conflict with eternal grievances that can never fully be corrected or atoned for. People feel the need to constantly walk on eggshells and censor themselves. This leads to an overall emphasis on safety, as even words become “violence” – we need trigger warnings and safe spaces to protect us.

              Victimhood culture is closely associated with safety culture. Safety culture is, above all else, debilitating. Those who choose a marginalized identity – and in the contemporary West, a marginalized identity is almost always a choice – become more fragile and more dependent on the broader society. At the same time, the powerful elements in society gain a stake in reinforcing this marginalized identity. The Great Society provides a case study in this dynamic.

              Those who do not receive the so-called “benefits” of safety culture are frequently more prepared for the real world. Who would you rather hire? Someone who studied hard in a rigorous discipline for four years or someone who spent four years being coddled in what is basically a day care center for twentysomethings? With this in mind, it’s not too big of a leap to see that straight white men might actually have become “privileged” through the process of not having access to the collective hugbox in higher education.Sam Jacobs

            3. In 2020, the Wuhan Coronavirus broke out of China and spread all around the world. The world had not seen a deadly, contagious virus with such scope since the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 to 1920. At first, the response was denial and apathy. However, this quickly gave way to what could be considered a massive overreaction: Shutting everything down.

              There was a certain logic to this: If people gathering together were what was spreading the virus, then simply keep people apart until the whole thing blows over. However, this is also potentially a huge overreaction. It is a medical solution in the driver’s seat without any nod to the economic, social or military consequences that flow from it. Even if one agrees that medical solutions are to be the primary driver, it does not follow that they are the only driver.

              Because of the lopsided and often hysterical reaction, many of the proposed solutions don’t even make sense: For example, telling everyone they can go to the supermarket while prohibiting them from going to small offices, or shutting down the border between the United States and Canada – two countries with highly infected populations and a sprawling border that is largely unpatrolled.Sam Jacobs

            4. The reaction to this virus is noteworthy, because it is the first major pandemic of this new, insulated and coddled age. Rather than reasonable measures to mitigate death, the choice made was to do anything and everything possible to prevent death entirely. Not only might this be an unwise decision, it might be a fool’s errand: The virus seems to be much more contagious than was previously thought, as well as much less lethal.

              More than one reasonable person has asked what would happen if we all just went about our lives making reasonable precautions, such as hand washing, mask wearing, social distancing, and the cancellation of large events like sports and concerts. This is effectively what Sweden has done and it appears to work, especially when contrasted with their neighbors in Finland who have done basically the same as America. How much sense does it make to have the entire community converge upon its grocery stores while not allowing anyone to go into an office, ever? Compare this with what has passed for reasonable reaction: Closing down every school, every dine-in restaurant, and the government dictating which businesses are essential and which aren’t.

              A big motivator of this is a compulsion to not lose a single life to the Wuhan Coronavirus, which is a totally unreasonable goal. People are going to die. The question isn’t “how tightly do we have to lock the country down to ensure no one dies,” but rather “what are reasonable measures we can take to balance public safety against personal choice and social cohesion?”Sam Jacobs

            5. What Is Vindictive Protectiveness?

              “Vindictive protectiveness” was a term coined by Haidt and Lukianoff to describe the environment on America’s college campuses with regard to speech codes and similar. However, it can refer more broadly to the cultural atmosphere in the United States and the West today. From the college campus to the corporate boardroom to the office, Americans have to watch what they say and maybe even what they think lest they fall afoul of extra-legal speech and thought codes.

              Perhaps worst of all, an entire generation is being raised to see this not only as normal, but as beneficial. This means that as this generation comes of age and grows into leadership positions, that there is a significant chance that these codes will be enforced more rigorously, not less. And while there may be ebbs and flows (political correctness went into hibernation for pretty much the entire administration of George W. Bush – though to be fair, there was an imperfect replacement in the form of post-9/11 jingoism), the current outrage factory is much more concerning than the one that sort of just hung around in the background in the 1990s.

              Put plainly: the next wave will be worse. We may not have Maoist-style Red Guards in America quite yet, but we’re not far off and the emphasis should be on “yet.” — Sam Jacobs

            6. Boom! Thank you for your posts and that book, which I’ve ordered. This explains the batshit craziness in America that we’ve seen in recent decades so well.

            7. You don’t know me. I attended a highly competitive university with a suicide rate that made earning a degree more dangerous than a tour in Vietnam. The explanation for my “attitude” is almost 30 years as, among other things, the attorney for a public health district. The notion of balancing costs and benefits is something that public health professionals deal with every day.

              I also handled our county’s mental health cases. That also requires balancing personal liberty against public safety. The bottom line in both domains is that interference with liberty is only justified when a person’s actions pose a threat of imminent death or life-threatening injury to the community.

              Whether social distancing is addressing a threat of that magnitude is a fact question. The consensus among public health professionals is that the benefits outweigh the costs. Some who view the facts from another perspective disagree. That is natural.

              What I find troubling is not that balancing must be done, but that many of the discussions place an extremely low value on human life in doing the balancing. I have to wonder if that would be happening if the deaths were occurring at the same rate among corporate executives as among persons who were already marginalized

            8. TxUser,

              I don’t need to know you. I know your ilk. People like you cause a lot of unnecessary problems and your “solutions” only exacerbate the problems you create.

          1. What logic? There is no logic.

            Why is it okay for me to go shopping in a grocery store with a mask on, but not to a small office, masked, where we’d be much more able to maintain a 6-foot or greater separation than in a grocery store?

            When things are plainly illogical, QUESTION THEM!

            This foolish, unnecessary destruction of the global economy is pitiful. My posts above explain how such a mistake could happen today as opposed to in the past, when people had common sense and the ability to think rationally.


            Rational people don’t kill everyone in order to save a handful.


            If somebody wants to stay in their house, that’s great. They can stay in their house and they should not be compelled to leave. But to say that they cannot leave their house and they will be arrested if they do, this is fascist. This is not democratic, this is not freedom. Give people back their goddamn freedom…

            The extension of the shelter-in-place or frankly what I would call it, forcibly imprisoning people in their homes against all their constitutional rights … my opinion … and breaking people’s freedom in ways that are horrible and wrong and not why people came to America or built this country. What the fuck? Excuse me. Outrage. So it will cause great harm, not just to Telsa, but many companies. And while Tesla will weather the storm there are many small companies that will not. — Elon Musk

        3. TX: your post has to be one of your best in demonstrating conflation and exaggeration.

          Non of the “examples/posts” here apply and very few in the wild. Dogmatism gone awry. .

  1. So far, every prediction of anything has been wildly wrong, they are fudging the numbers by reporting people that probably did not die of Wuhan Covid, in the mean time in the real world, people are not getting treatment for disease they already had treatment lined up for, because their either afraid to the significant over-hype.. or their hospital is closed. Which will probably cause them to die prematurely.. Will that be counted as a Covid death too?

    Also, because of the economic stagnation that was largely unnecessary more people will probably get sick, commit suicide, because they cannot get back to work, because of unneeded shutdowns. The fix is worse than the disease at this point…

    Perhaps the few places in the country the needed to be shutdown is New York City and New jersey, largely because of crappy leadership from the NY Mayor and Governor that sent covid elderly back to their nursing homes to kill the rest of them. And the NJ governor that does’t know what in the bill of rights. This can include the Michigan governor that bungled everything in site and still doesn’t get it..

    The common thread of places that are still completely shutdown for no reason now are due to autocratic Democrat governors that don’t know what they are doing and love the power…

  2. TX, even you must see the implications and clear possibilities for abuse of this contact tracking software. It only takes the flip of a switch to have all the mobile device around you, looking for you. And no, you don’t have to have a phone on you. It’s one crisis from being a government mandated feature.

    1. I was thinking about the beaches and the sort of symbolism of the beaches. And remember when you were a kid and you would go to the beach, and there was a beach sign, and it just said one thing on it? ‘Closed Midnight to 5 A.M.’ And every year, they started adding something to the sign — No frisbee. No dogs. No Beer. No smoking. Well, now it’s ‘No Beach.’

      The sign is a metaphor for big government. Nothing ever gets taken off the sign. Something gets added to the sign every time. — Adam Carolla

      1. I do not see a stretch or a conflation. Danox made an assertion of fact that can be verified using all the available reliable sources and countered by nothing but speculation. He immediately got two downvotes.

        As I said, that is a metaphor, or perhaps simply an example, for the times we live in. The President of the United States can tell the same lie twenty or more times in the course of making thousands of false statements since he took office, yet some Americans would not think of downvoting him. They would, however, downvote anyone who contradicted him with actual evidence of the real facts.

        The argument from evidence has been replaced almost entirely in some quarters by the ad hominem argument. If President Obama told them it was raining, they would stand there soaking wet and deny it. If President Trump told them it was not raining, they would stand there soaking wet and agree. For some other Americans, the same could be said with the roles reversed.

        George Santayana famously observed, “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” Mark Twain replied, “History never repeats, but it often rhymes.” What would either of them say about somebody who has claimed 23 times in the past few weeks that we haven’t seen an epidemic like this since 1917? Add the details that (1) the epidemic did not begin until 1918; (2) the failure of the Versailles Peace Conference to avert a second world war was largely attributable to Mr. Trump’s predecessor Woodrow Wilson coming down with the flu at the worst possible moment in 1919; and (3) Mr. Trump’s’ own grandfather died of the flu in 1918. Somebody who refuses to correct an error that minor is clearly unconcerned with telling any truth at all.

        The downvotes to Danox show that it is a broader problem.

  3. As I sit here at my desk, with about $50 worth of devices, I can guarantee you that my forehead temperature is 94.8 degrees, my back of throat temperature is 96.1 degrees, my pulse ox is 97% and my resting pulse rate is 58 beats per minute. I can test that every 5 minutes if if I want.

    If there is a problem my doctor is a text message away.

    I am 71 years old and in FAR better health than 90% of the high school students that I teach. I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs and don’t live on potato chips and McDonalds. Somehow they think that makes me socially inferior to them!

    Don’t need no damn contact police.

    1. The earliest known American fatality from Covid-19 was a 52-year old woman in excellent health. She had been a high-school athlete and still kept in shape. She watched her weight, did not smoke, and had no known health issues. It is unknown how she acquired the virus, since she had no obvious contact with any other patient or anyone who had been to an affected area.

      If it could kill her, it can kill you. Contact tracing will make it significantly less likely that you will die. If you don’t care about that, at least consider the possibility that other people might want to live.

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