The US government gave bad unresearched password and gave bad diet advice.
A former National Institute of Standards and Technology manager Bill Burr admitted that a document he authored on crafting strong passwords was misguided. “Much of what I did I now regret,” says Burr, who is 72 years old and now retired.
His advice steered everyday computer users toward lazy mistakes and easy-to-predict practices. Burr’s eight-page password document, titled “NIST Special Publication 800-63. Appendix A,” advised people to use irregular capitalization, special characters, and at least one numeral.
The advice makes passwords that are tough for humans to remember but are not difficult to hack.
In 2014, experts on the committee that develops the country’s dietary guidelines acknowledged that they had ditched the low-fat diet. The committee’s report was released, with an even bigger change: It lifted the longstanding caps on dietary cholesterol, saying there was “no appreciable relationship” between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. Americans, it seems, had needlessly been avoiding egg yolks, liver and shellfish for decades.
The primary problem is that nutrition policy has long relied on a very weak kind of science: epidemiological, or “observational,” studies in which researchers follow large groups of people over many years. But even the most rigorous epidemiological studies suffer from a fundamental limitation. At best they can show only association, not causation. Epidemiological data can be used to suggest hypotheses but not to prove them.
Instead of accepting that this evidence was inadequate to give sound advice, strong-willed scientists overstated the significance of their studies.
Today, we are poised to make the same mistakes. The committee’s new report also advised eliminating “lean meat” from the list of recommended healthy foods, as well as cutting back on red and processed meats. Fewer protein choices will likely encourage Americans to eat even more carbs. It will also have policy implications: Meat could be limited in school lunches and other federal food programs.
It’s possible that a mostly meatless diet could be healthy for all Americans — but then again, it might not be. We simply do not know. There are no rigorous clinical trials on such a diet.