back to article US anti-encryption law is so 'braindead' it will outlaw file compression

The proposed bill put forward by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to force US companies to build backdoors into their encryption systems has quickly run into trouble. Less than 24 hours after the draft Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016 was released, more than 43,000 signatures have been added to …

  1. Kimo
    Headmaster

    Just a point of clarification...

    "While the big names in the technology have yet to make public statements on the matter, their pressure group the Business Software Alliance (BSA) has come out against the Burr-Feinstein bill, saying it "strongly urges" Congress to think again."

    This passage implies that Congress has thought at least once. Removing the last word would be more accurate.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: Just a point of clarification...

      "This passage implies that Congress has thought at least once. Removing the last word would be more accurate."

      Expecting a congress critter to think at all is like expecting the statue of liberty to tango.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby
        Boffin

        Re: Just a point of clarification...

        Now you know why the US is so messed up and fed up to the point of trying to elect an idiot with a comb over.

        Seriously... you want to force a company to comply with a court order to help police decrypt an encrypted file where they don't know the key?

        Congress doesn't need an intelligence test but a sanity check. Or rather a senility test. We need term limits.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Just a point of clarification...

          Do you really think the idiot with a comb over would make better laws than this?

          Nobody with two braincells to rub together would think that Trump would fix anything, rather it would be the starting point for a slow inexorable slide into an Idiocracy.

          Or maybe Bush started that and Trump is the next step along the way.

          1. David Neil

            Re: Just a point of clarification...

            There's also the fundamental issue that the President doesn't actually make the laws, you would need to replace all the representatives as well

          2. Gene Cash Silver badge

            Re: Just a point of clarification...

            > Do you really think the idiot with a comb over would make better laws than this?

            > Nobody with two braincells to rub together would think that Trump would fix anything

            Nope, but it'll certainly be entertaining seeing Trump and Congress going at it tooth & nail for 4 years, and I am certainly not voting for Hillary. Plus this way, Congress might be too busy for shit like this.

            It's pretty much the choice between voting for Stalin or Hitler.

            1. Willy Makit

              Re: Just a point of clarification...

              Why do you think Trump and a Republican congress would go at it tooth and nail? Assuming that the Donald is picked as the candidate, the Repubs will certainly close ranks behind him because the only thing they hate more than Trump is any Democrat.

              I'm no fan of HC, but DT is dangerous to the whole world.

              1. fajensen Silver badge

                Re: Just a point of clarification...

                I'm no fan of HC, but DT is dangerous to the whole world.

                Maybe so - but - the facts are that somewhere between ten thousands and hundreds of thousands have died because of Hillary's need to show off her "Hawkishness" to her handlers.

                Based on past performance Hillary is clearly the greater evil. In fact, Trump has so much catching up to do that the next genocidal "regime change" might not even happen before he is replaced and we get 4-5 years of relative peace.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Just a point of clarification...

                  "Based on past performance Hillary is clearly the greater evil. In fact, Trump has so much catching up to do that the next genocidal "regime change" might not even happen before he is replaced and we get 4-5 years of relative peace."

                  Unless his social stumbles and attitude trigger World War III. Then it wouldn't matter whether he's less experienced than Clinton. At least Clinton's savvy enough not to trigger Armageddon. Trump could trigger it and not realize it.

          3. The IT Ghost

            Re: Just a point of clarification...

            To be pedantic, the President cannot "make laws". He (or, someday, she) can sign bills that Congress has approved so that they become law, but that's not making a law, since the President cannot introduce legislation to Congress. At least not directly. Executive Orders are another matter, and, constitutionally, only apply to people employed by the President. Just as the CEO of a corporation has sweeping powers to issue edicts to that company's own employees, but have no standing outside that company, so do is the idea behind Executive Orders. Much has been made of them, especially in the past 8 years, but I do not know that the legality of them in regards to the general populace has been expanded in the slightest.

            In any case, the slide to increasing levels of idiocy began with Clinton (the First). That's where the notion of "Oh, we can't give tax breaks to individuals! They might *save* that money for their futures instead of spending it right away to stimulate the economy!" began. Where we got the idea that "to professionalize, you must federalize!" (That wasn't Clinton, but it was that era). Where the idea that it was perfectly okay for all your electronic devices to be snooped through just because you had the temerity to enter the United States was born. And where we go this gem "We're either going to do what we said we're going to do, or we're going to do something else."

      2. Ole Juul

        Re: Just a point of clarification...

        "Expecting a congress critter to think at all is like expecting the statue of liberty to tango."

        It takes two to tango.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Just a point of clarification...

        "Expecting a congress critter to think at all is like expecting the statue of liberty to tango."

        If it does, DON'T BLINK!

        1. What_Does_Not_Kill_You_Makes_You_Stronger

          Re: Just a point of clarification...

          Upvote for the Dr Who reference :)

          1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
            Joke

            Re: Just a point of clarification...

            I think you are all being unfair to congressmen: They can think, for a given value of "think". The problem is they appear to be thinking about themselves mostly, rather than the real world out there

    2. Gray
      Trollface

      Re: Just a point of clarification...

      Since when does any form of reality enter into political and emotional hysteria? The American Congress, standing upon the Patriotic Drumhead of "Protect the Peoples," will forge ahead with this legislation, or not, and will table it and wait to offer it up another day. Understand: nothing has to do with anything factual. Congress functions entirely within its own reality distortion field.*

      *Gospel of Jobs.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Just a point of clarification...

        Don't you mean the DC Realiry Disfuction Field?

        Anything that happens inside the Beltway seems to be so far removed from reality that it might as well be on another planet.

        Mind you we have our own Political RDF that covers the Palace of Westminster and every HMG Building withing 3 miles. If we were to nuke every career civil servant, we might get a government that actually worked instead of the ''Yes/No minister' charade.

        You can also include all political hacks in that as well. They have been infected with the PRDF Virus as well.

        So what if an MP dates a 'professional woman'... Who the hell cares outside the PRDF Infection zone anyway????

        1. death&taxes

          Re: Just a point of clarification...

          "Disfuction"

          Not a typo I assume.

          1. Robert Helpmann??
            Coat

            Re: Just a point of clarification...

            "Disfuction" - Doing to this proposal what you cannot do to a pregnant woman... Yep, I'm leaving now.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Just a point of clarification...

      Perhaps you're mis-parsing it. The BSA strongly urges (again) Congress to think.

    4. anniemouse

      Re: Just a point of clarification...

      i strongly object to even the use of the word "think" because it is presumptive to believe that the imbeciles and morons now infecting our government can rally do that.

      i propose instead to replace that line with

      it "strongly urges Congress to resign their positions prior to being recalled from office"

      TRULY - these predatory law schemers who promote illegal wars, death, wmd, collateral damage, and robbing the american economy of value, homes, retirement, savings and letting the wallstreet thieves pay a small fine, WITH FRIENDS LIKE THAT, WHO NEEDS ENEMIES?

  2. Number6

    Maths v the Law

    Following on from the spirit of this Bill, I think they should declare Pi=3. It would save all the hassle of trying to work out all the other digits.

    (Yes I know it's been tried once, but the technology wasn't as advanced back then.)

    1. g e

      Re: Maths v the Law

      And then make sure all their safety equipment has rotating parts in it. Please.

      While we're at it, remove 'Warning sharp' from kitchen knife packaging...

      Let's give Darwin's principles a good run at the lot of them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maths v the Law

      "Following on from the spirit of this Bill, I think they should declare Pi=3. It would save all the hassle of trying to work out all the other digits."

      Yes it was tried once, but not with much success...

      However it is a symptom of the problems that crop up when we ask politicians to do their job. They have to pass laws and enact them to keep our civilisation going, to keep the chaos and barbarism at bay; that's their job and the reason we elect and pay them. They've become so good at it (apart from Pi=3) that we settled and contented life pretty much for granted. Everyone should be made to go and live somewhere 'unpleasant' so that they get a full sense of how privileged they are to lead settled and contented lives.

      The problem is that we've gone and invented whole new ways by which we can be nasty to each other. Hacking, digital piracy, etc. It's all stuff that hurts people. And if there's one thing a politician is supposed to sensitive to it's situations where people may get hurt. Why? Because we sack them when it happens and they haven't done anything to prevent it.

      So what we're seeing here is politicians responding to what they see as a threat to our well being. And they're right - all these modern things like encrypted communications, etc. can just as easily be used against us (ransome-ware, mobiles used to coordinate terrorist attacks, etc) as well as for our benefit (keeping out Apple, Google, bad guys and others with no right to intrude out of our stuff). It's utterly unsurprising that politicians will respond to that in the way we are paying them to do so.

      So the problems start when the politicians (who are merely trying to do their job) are faced with something they don't understand well enough to be able to act effectively. Encryption is one such thing.

      However, the reaction of experts generally is not to get involved in helping politicians formulate something workable. This is absurd. Politicians will generally do something, anything, if they perceive the need for it. Doing nothing is quite often worse. It is in all our interests that, instead of bleating about it from the sidelines and refusing to engage, various experts accept that something has to be done and offer to help, and hopefully make sure that whatever we end up with isn't unworkable, unenforceable, and fails to achieve the result that we need.

      Difficulty With the Technology

      One common objection to encryption back doors, magic keys, etc. is that no one should be trusted to hold such things for fear that they'd leak.

      However such objections are bollocks. We already do trust various parties with such things. Apple have their signing keys for their firmware. Google have their keys. Verisign have who knows what, RSA have their magic keys too. Everyone has keys, and they're all critical to the security of the products they sell to us.

      And we're already apparently quite content with such organisations losing these. At least one of the companies listed lost their crown jewels to an internet hack, and hardly anyone cared.

      Lets not pretend that having these things looked after by these companies is any kind of guarantee; any single one of them could fall victim to a disgruntled employee, a hack, carelessness, etc. If Apple leaked their firmware signing key and source code then the FBI wouldn't need to get the Courts to unlock iPhones for them; they'd be able to do it themselves. And so, with a little effort, could you and I.

      So if encryption, signing, etc are already no guarantee of privacy right now, why would having a law explicitly stating that there is no such guarantee make any difference? Is it because too many people are sticking their heads in the sand pretending that such a guarantee exists and don't like being told they're wrong?

      What the Companies Should Do

      Whether they like it or not something will eventually change in legislation. Left to their own devices the politicians could easily pass something that makes no sense and does no good. Whatever that is will require some oversight. In a country as paranoid about its own administration as the US appears to be, it might be better if that oversight role was partly (or wholly) fulfilled by companies like Apple and Google. If they choose not to do that then they can't rightfully complain about the end result.

      Ransomeware

      Ransomeware is different. Ransomeware is rapidly becoming the scourge of the modern era. It's pretty difficult to pass an effective law about it. These things only exist because, ultimately, the Internet makes it too easy for miscreants to hide out there somewhere in the world raking in the money. Short of banning the use of encryption entirely across the whole Internet (and thus removing the means by which the flow of money can be anonymous), we're simply going to have to be on our guard. Or make the Internet more 'curated' than it is at the moment, but then we'd be copying the Chinese...

      1. oldcoder

        Re: Maths v the Law

        "We already do trust various parties with such things."

        Actually, no. We don't. Since you are referring to PKI, it is only trusted to identify that the two parties in a conversation can accept that the conversation is private.

        Either of the two parties may release that conversation... But not that a third party can listen in.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Maths v the Law

          "Actually, no. We don't."

          Actually, yes we do.

          We trust the people at the other end not to have been breached (such as happened to Google when the Chinese got inside their network all those years ago, as apparently happened to RSA (really bad that one seemingly), or can and will happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere next time a 0day bug gets exploited), and to be doing what you thing they've said they'll do with your data. Even the system of CAs is rubbish, with too many garbage CAs out there being willing to hand out certificates they really shouldn't.

          If some third party is roaming at will around inside their network (which is far more practicable than breaking even a weak encryption layer), then all the encryption in the world between you and them counts for nothing whatsoever. Just because they've gone and put up a https website doesn't guarantee anything at all. With 'privacy', what sort of guarantee do you actually want?

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Maths v the Law

        "Ransomeware"? You mean like Swallows and Amazons? That's easy - it's buried on Cormorant Island. Thanks for playing.

        1. Havin_it

          Ransomeware

          We Didn't Mean To Go To CRC32?

          [PS: "HOW marked the harbour?" is a clear nod to the folly of security-by-obscurity.]

    3. Number6

      Re: Maths v the Law

      Part of the problem is that the "good" guys were caught with their fingers in the till, so even the ones who were supposed to be looking after our best interests are not to be trusted either. That's why we need a new system, the old one has broken (assuming it was ever not-broken).

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Maths v the Law

        "That's why we need a new system, the old one has broken (assuming it was ever not-broken)."

        Only one problem. EVERY OTHER SYSTEM out there's just as bad if not worse when it comes to controlling the instinctive human potential for corruption. As long as a human's involved, ANY system can be corrupted. We can't even turn it over to machines because at some point along the way, a human has to make the machine.

        Put another way, how can you possibly build a rock-solid foundation on which to build the world when all you have to work with is sand (as in not even water, just sand)?

    4. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      Re: Maths v the Law

      Following on from the spirit of this Bill, I think they should declare Pi=3. It would save all the hassle of trying to work out all the other digits.

      (Yes I know it's been tried once, but the technology wasn't as advanced back then.)

      Just call in Bergholt Stutley Johnson!

      Might even get the mail sorted before it was sent

  3. find users who cut cat tail

    BSA

    Wow, it seems I might even agree with the BSA on something. This is a strange world.

    1. LaeMing

      Re: BSA

      That's just infinite-monkey effect. Eventually one of the monkeys will say something you happen to agree with by pure chance.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BSA

      Too true!! I always find it funny how the people who want the backdoors are often the same people wanting the heads of any whistleblowers who have leaked THEIR private data.

      It's not very nice when it affects you, is it? Morons.

  4. Adam 1

    The way that I am reading this, it would also outlaw the only recommended way of storing password information; a 1 way password hash. These by definition (AND GOAL) cannot be reversed* to the original content even if you know the hash and the specific algorithm(s) applied.

    * and before someone points out rainbow tables, these are simply cached brute force attacks.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I now want to see a picture of a truck frustrating purple.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Simple. Paint it glaringly bright frog green. No red or blue in sight (Thus not even a hint of purple; I'd call that frustrating purple, wouldn't you?).

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      I now want to see a picture of a truck frustrating purple.

      Rule 34 says at least one version of it is available. You may regret seeing it, though.

    3. pete 22
      Devil

      "I now want to see a picture of a truck frustrating purple."

      That makes two of us. I'm sure there is a Playmobil scene for this..... somewhere.

  6. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Having seen how Congress works for all my life, I daresay that this will pass as is by a wide margin. No clues in Congress, drafted by two wonderful upstanding members.. and it'll feel good in an election year for the CongressCritters to say: "We're thinking of the children and protecting them from terrorists."

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Don't give them any bright ideas. They may just decide to cooperate in an Enemy Mine situation, make the majority veto-proof, and get it enacted regardless of God, the Devil, or President Obama's Veto. AND get it done before they adjourn for elections.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: regardless of God

        Perhaps that is the line to take. This bill attempts to defy essential Truths of the universe that God created. Congress is not above God, so the bill is blasphemous and has no place in a right-thinking society.

  7. Herby

    An analogy perchance??

    This bill seems much like requiring car manufacturers to put devices in their automobiles that will reverse the effects of a crash. Isn't a crumpling of a car much like encrypting it with no reversal in sight?

    Maybe an explanation like this will get the point across (but I doubt it!).

    Of course there is the NSA body works, but that is another story.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: An analogy perchance??

      They point out you CAN reconstruct a crumpled car. It's just that doing so will cost more than replacing it which is why insurance companies use the term "total loss". So no, that won't work. You can't use the "throw away/melt the only key" analogy either, because they'll answer, "lockpicks" and "safecrackers." You'd have to point to a truly one-way process like combustion. At which point they'll see it more like using thermite and say it's illegal anyway.

      1. kryptonaut

        Re: An analogy perchance??

        Or maybe it's like demanding that Ma must be able to turn her delicious apple pie back into a couple of Granny Smiths and a block of Jus-Rol

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon
          Coat

          Re: An analogy perchance??

          "Or maybe it's like demanding that Ma must be able to turn her delicious apple pie back into a couple of Granny Smiths and a block of Jus-Rol"

          That's do-able - they just have to pass a new motion!

  8. ocratato

    Technocrat vs Bureaucrat

    Its been my experience the bureaucrats and technocrats have fundamentally different understandings for the word "impossible". The technocrats understand the word to mean that there some mathematics or physics that prevents it from being done, while the bureaucrats think that it just too difficult, but that if enough money and effort is thrown at it then it can be still eventually be done.

    This generally means that bureaucrats tend to win arguments - if its something they don't want to do (a bit expensive), they say its impossible and the technicians go away thinking that there is some physical reason which, of course, it's not sensible to argue about. Conversely, if the technicians say something is impossible they find it amazing that the bureaucrats will try to keep arguing their case.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Technocrat vs Bureaucrat

      To summarize then :

      Impossible for a bureaucrat simply means the opposition has better funding.

      Impossible for a technocrat means Science needs better funding.

  9. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Once it dawns that corporate super-pac monies will disappear if this bill is forwarded it will wither away.

    Would that the people proposing it would do so.

  10. Winkypop Silver badge
    FAIL

    If passed

    Just imagine the associated detection, enforcement and court costs.

    It would make the war on drugs seem like a school project.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: If passed

      there used to be a nationwide 55 mph speed limit, passed by Con-Grab in the 70's, as an "emergency measure" at the request of President Nixon as I recall.

      nobody obeyed it. enforcing it was nearly impossible. CB radios became popular ways of evading the cops. And that's what happens when STUPID laws are passed. People widely disregard them.

      yeah, classic libertarian argument implied.

      Aside from the fact that it's a STUPID law, that it will give FOREIGN encryption providers and software and device makers AN EDGE over U.S. businesses, and what makes THEM think "the bad guys" won't ALWAYS be able to "get theirs" while potential victims [regular citizens] won't even have SSL encryption available to do BANKING TRANSACTIONS??? Widespread crime ensues. Buh-bye internet commerce. Buh-bye internet banking.

      So many things would be affected.

      I told Feinstein in an e-mail that she should hand over EVERY KEY TO HER HOUSE to law enforcement, and THAT ANALOGY was IDENTICAL to THIS LEGISLATION in its intent.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: If passed

        "it will give FOREIGN encryption providers and software and device makers AN EDGE over U.S. businesses,"

        So, consititutionally speaking, it impacts on foreign policy and defense issues, so lies outside Congress' remit anyway. Your commander-in-chief can therefore veto the bill regardless of what majority it gets.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: If passed

          "Your commander-in-chief can therefore veto the bill regardless of what majority it gets."

          Nope. If both parties cooperate, they can pass it by a veto-proof two-thirds majority, meaning even if Obama vetoed it, they can override the veto and get it enacted anyway. And under the Ten Day rule, the bill becomes law anyway if Obama doesn't sign or veto it within ten days unless Congress adjourns before the ten days are up.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: If passed

        "I told Feinstein in an e-mail"

        Did she reply by telling you how to release your caps-lock?

      3. Roo
        Windows

        Re: If passed

        "there used to be a nationwide 55 mph speed limit, passed by Con-Grab in the 70's, as an "emergency measure" at the request of President Nixon as I recall.

        nobody obeyed it. enforcing it was nearly impossible. CB radios became popular ways of evading the cops. And that's what happens when STUPID laws are passed. People widely disregard them."

        The (stupid) laws that was outlawed people being homosexual in the UK were routinely used to blackmail people. I expect the outlawing of encryption will be put to the exact same use, and similarly the only folks punished will be the ones who brag about it or piss off/get in the way of an apparatchik.

    2. fajensen Silver badge

      Re: If passed

      It would make the war on drugs seem like a school project.

      Gotta Have Growth! War on Drugs and War on Terror have peaked.

  11. dan1980

    The upshot of this law can be stated simply, in relatively plain English:

    You cannot use encryption that you are unable to break or to which you do not have a key.

    This is the nuts of it: the requirement to provide 'intelligible' (i.e. plaintext) information has, as a necessary pre-requisite, the ability to obtain this in the first place. There are only three ways this can be done:

    • No encryption at all
    • Knowing the keys (by recording user passwords)
    • Deliberate use of flawed ('back-doored') encryption

    Saying that the bill doesn't provide authority for the government to "require or prohibit any design" is rather disingenuous because there ARE designs that are prohibited - specifically designs employing strong encryption where no keys are recorded.

    They have been rebuffed time and again and ridiculed for their insistence that encryption can simultaneously be breakable by 'authorised' parties while being secure against unauthorised parties.

    So they have decided to just ignore the implementation and simply focus on the result they want, trying to legislate that software providers must square the circle.

    1. John G Imrie

      @ dan1980

      I have decoded your comment through my super secret decryption algorithm and it came back with.

      'This bill is crap', strangely I get the same message from all the other comments as well.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: the requirement to provide 'intelligible' (i.e. plaintext) information

      Hmm... maybe that ¨intelligible plaintext information" could be a simple non-obfuscated script to brute force the (an) unknown password. :-)

  12. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    "Math cannot frustrate court orders"

    Sure it can and so can physics, chemistry or any science for that matter.

    Court cannot change a scientific fact. It is like ordering Pi to be 3 instead of 3.14159... Oh, forgot, an imbecilic idiot legislator who graduated with liberal arts tried that one too.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: "Math cannot frustrate court orders"

      The sad thing is that this is *so* obvious that it didn't make it into the constitution. Perhaps an amendment is in order: Congress shall make no laws that conflict with those of mathematics or nature.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: "Math cannot frustrate court orders"

        Congress shall make no laws that conflict with those of mathematics or nature

        laws of mathematics == laws of nature. However, I see your point, when explaining things like this to liberal arts you have to use small words and things like 2+2.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          Re: "Math cannot frustrate court orders"

          "use small words and things like 2+2."

          Have you ever read the proof that 1+1=2?

          I couldn't follow it - way beyond me.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: "Math cannot frustrate court orders"

      Oh, forgot, an imbecilic idiot legislator who graduated with liberal arts tried that one too.

      Oh sweet fucking hell. Do you people ever bother looking anything up?

      The bill in question did not attempt to legislate a value of 3 for pi, and was most certainly not written by "an imbecilic idiot legislator". Nor had the author or sponsor "graduated with [a] liberal arts [degree]".1

      The bill was written entirely by a physician, Edward Goodwin, who thought he had squared the circle. Besides being rubbish, it's inconsistent, but it implies various incorrect values for pi. None of them happen to be exactly 3, but why let facts get in the way of an anecdote, eh?

      The sponsor was a first- (and only-) term representative, Taylor Record, who was a farmer and lumber merchant. He didn't claim to understand anything about the bill.

      It's far from the stupidest law ever passed, much less the stupidest bill ever proposed.

      1Nor, clearly, did you, or you might know how to do a bit of basic research.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon
        WTF?

        Re: "Math cannot frustrate court orders"

        "Nor, clearly, did you, or you might know how to do a bit of basic research."

        Wow, who stole the jam out of your doughnut?

  13. Schultz
    Boffin

    Bending the natural sciences to conform to political will ...

    is hard to do. Even the Nazis didn't follow through with their aryan science. So calm down and let the politicians go through the motions of trying all those approached that don't work.

    1. Jimbo 6

      Re: Bending the natural sciences to conform to political will ...

      Ideas for forthcoming legislation :

      1) Medical companies to be obliged to jolly well cure cancer.

      2) Pizzas to be calorie-free, whilst still retaining the same yumminess.

      3) ...

  14. TeeCee Gold badge
    WTF?

    Just out of interest.......

    .....is every piece of US legislation that's named after two people the work of drooling morons?

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Just out of interest.......

      ...is every piece of US legislation the work of drooling morons?

      FTFY

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Oengus
    Megaphone

    Drawing attention

    I learned a long time ago... If someone has set something up to make everyone look in a particular direction; look around fast... There is something else going on that they want to draw attention from.

    What else is happening that is getting little (or no visibility) that they don't want put under the microscope.

    (or possibly these guys are just really dumb)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Drawing attention

      There is something else going on that they want to draw attention from

      Good point, and I always think that when we are encouraged to laugh at the idiocy of legislators.

      You need look no further than this legislation itself to see more worrying things than 'banning compression'.

      It wouldn't take much to remove the obvious idiocies while still leaving legislation that has serious impacts, such as :

      1) Establishing the principle that law enforcement has the right to demand (with appropriate paperwork) any information that is theoretically available.

      2) Legitimises the worst examples of telemetry gathering that we've seen so far (eg Windows 10), and indeed (it could be argued) requires such data gathering.

      3) Establishes that 'privacy' in the context even of your own local PC is not an absolute thing, but is defined by current legislation.

      Enough there to be concerned about, I think.

  17. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Who writes this sort of law?

    I mean really.

    It's cretinous.

    And anyone with superficial knowledge would know it.

    So who writes such obviously s**t law?

    1. Roo

      Re: Who writes this sort of law?

      "So who writes such obviously s**t law?"

      People with no respect for the rule of law.

  18. 27escape
    Joke

    Ban photocopiers

    They too cannot provider reverse paths to copies

    Down-scaling a lossless image format, will lose information and the original cannot be rebuilt

    The Readers Digest organisation is going to be in for a lot of trouble

    etc etc

    1. Bluto Nash
      FAIL

      Re: Ban photocopiers

      ...and SOUP! Don't forget soup! It's been condensed to take up less space and you can't put the original water back in it! Campbell's is in big trouble...

  19. TJ1

    And if everyone emails random data...

    ... imagine the fun when the government tries to force 'decryption' to plain-text :)

    Any cryptographically secure data should be indistinguishable from random data.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And if everyone emails random data...

      But then they'll just claim you're lying and that you're not providing the key and the fate of the civilized world is at stake. Forget presumption of innocence, just panic the jury and you're off to Atlanta or Leavenworth...

  20. BurnT'offering

    If lossy compression is illegal

    Then so are DVDs, satellite and terrestrial TV, mobile phones, MP3s, digital cameras, fax machines, DAB (ok that's no great loss) and singing birthday cards.

  21. localzuk

    Killing off the tech industry in the USA?

    Why would the tech industry stay in the USA if this bill came to pass? They'd all move to a more liberal country, like China...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Killing off the tech industry in the USA?

      Missing Joke Icon or '... liberal country ...' has a new meaning. :)

      If meant seriously, seek help now ........ (i.e. go to school and learn to read, then read lots of newspapers etc (Globally) of the last 50 years.

      This should enable you to re-assess your definition of China that is more in line with the rest of the world.

  22. Sir Runcible Spoon
    Paris Hilton

    Sir

    Does any of this have an impact on actual codes rather than ciphers?

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Boffin

      impact on actual codes rather than ciphers?

      Defining* one set of words ("Blessent mon coeur d'un langueur monotone") to mean something else entirely ("We're coming to kick Kraut ass")? Not that I can see, but maybe that'll be next. In which case they also need to ban stuff such as crossword puzzles, synonyms and doublespeak. As well as Congressional speeches and debate.

      * you need to get the definition of the code to the receiving party first, securely. You'll have to find a way to do that without involving crypto.

      1. Dagg
        Happy

        Re: impact on actual codes rather than ciphers?

        >In which case they also need to ban stuff such as crossword puzzles, synonyms and doublespeak.

        Also all forms of advertising.

  23. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Facepalm

    If I ever visit the Capitol

    I shall attempt to affix a sign declaring:

    "Warning: Contains Nuts"

    I was going to write some insightful comments about what can be done, but frankly it is Friday afternoon, and I am just stumped by the idiocy described in the article.

  24. Aodhhan

    Stop ranting and blaming politicians for putting together laws which at least attempt to protect citizens. Start focusing your attention on law breakers.

    Instead of bleeding out and worrying about the welfare of a prisoner, start demanding longer sentences and hellish conditions. Put money into building prisons so everyone stays their full sentence and you will see a drop in crime.

    1. Steve Todd
      Stop

      The US has the highest per-capita prison population in the world, and you want to make it bigger? I'd suggest that as a policy it's not working, nor are US prisons cosy hotels that no one would want to leave.

      Part of the objective of the system should be to rehabilitate offenders, and if you give them no incentive to behave and improve themselves then that isn't going to happen.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        "The US has the highest per-capita prison population in the world, and you want to make it bigger? I'd suggest that as a policy it's not working, nor are US prisons cosy hotels that no one would want to leave."

        Compared to some of the hellholes cons go through, they'll consider a US prison a paradise. Especially compared to prisons elsewhere in the world (or even within the US, consider some of the more infamous ones like Angola, Louisiana).

    2. Jimbo 6

      @ Aodhhan

      You forgot to include the 'Joke Alert' icon, right ?

    3. King Jack
      WTF?

      @ Aodhhan

      Out of interest, how is banning encryption going to protect you? Blowing people up is illegal in most places but it doesn't stop a terrorist doing it. Here is an idea: why not pass a law declaring all crimes to be illegal. We'll have world peace soon after.

    4. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      @ Silly name

      Way to miss the point! Let me guess - you work for Congress, don't you?

      You are putting forward a variation on the multiply discredited "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" argument, which if nothing else, shows you really don't have a clue. The issue here is that the "forces of law and order" are indistinguishable from the criminals at the moment, and that, short of trusting those fine people in government, the Bill is mathematically impossible.

      Now, why don't you crawl back under your rock and keep working on your proof that Jesus could have ridden a dinosaur ...

  25. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    "While the big names in the technology have yet to make public statements on the matter, their pressure group the Business Software Alliance (BSA) has come out against the Burr-Feinstein bill, saying it "strongly urges" Congress to think Again."

    Ftfy

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Moron politicians

    Burr and Feinstein are poster children for everything that's wrong with Congress. Entitled morons championing driving us directly into a nation-crippling iceberg.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Moron politicians

      And yet no one's been able to come up with a workable alternative to a bunch of corrupt representatives. Direct voting invites herding of stupid votes, and a minimum educational standard invites corrupting the standard to block voters.

  27. stevie_t

    So does this mean that all official electronic communications within the US government will be left unsecured and open for all prying eyes to see? Let me guess - they will be taking a 'do as i say, not as i do" approach to enforcing the law.

  28. nilfs2
    Facepalm

    WTF?

    How on earth do people that stupid managed to get a job in the congress?

    1. Alumoi Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: WTF?

      Well, you know, there's this little thing called elections where people choose the best and the brightest among them to be their representatives. And you know what they say, in the land of morons the cretin is the king. Or something like that.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: WTF?

        I think it was "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." But the thing about election is that they suffer (like anything else communal in nature) from imbalance of knowledge. In fact, EVERY form of government is extremely prone to fatal corruption. Even democracy, which can be corrupted by fooling an uninformed electorate.

  29. Ramazan

    Instead of focusing on the concept of freedom, guys here attempt at "clever" joking along the lines of "as it won't work in reverse and add back the data removed – this code could be banned by the law, too". Yeah, that's funny while it lasts, but I see no problem in fixing the proposed law so that everything is fine with jpegs and mpegs and shit while NSA is allowed to use strong crypto and you aren't.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Devil

      @Ramazan

      The world is bigger than the US, and laws passed by the US congress don't readily apply elsewhere (although the US tends to act as if they do). My government is actually promoting strong encryption and research into even stronger encryption, as do several others in the EU. Maybe that will be reversed one day, who knows. But it is knowledge that can't be unlearnt, and it will be available to build upon

      And in the meantime we'll make fun of your moronic legislators. You have a problem with that?

  30. Slx

    Will this not simply drive a lot of R&D and companies out of the United Stares entirely?

    Congress seems to think they can compel multinationals to stay and create increasingly hostile legislation.

  31. Robert Jenkins

    If non-reversible compression becomes illegal, that would include most if not all video codecs plus MP3, dolby digital, AAC etc..

    No digital TV or Radio in the USA plus illegal to make/sell DVDs or Blu-ray discs etc ???

    (CDs should be OK, at least).

    1. harmjschoonhoven
      FAIL

      @Robert Jenkins

      CDs should be OK, at least

      The data on (audio)CDs are not compressed, but in reality almost all CDs develop defects - think scratches - which are in principle masked by error correction code which comes with every block of data. In that case the information can not be restored to the original form, i.e. the data on a pristine CD. So it becomes illegal under the proposed Burr-Feinstein bill.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: @Robert Jenkins

        Actually, they're still lossy. Because they're digital. The very process of ADC (which is needed to produce the bitstream) can be easily demonstrated to be lossy. Sure, a high-quality 24-bit 192KHz recording is not going to be THAT lossy, but it also won't capture every last harmonic or ultra-fine or ultra-high-frequency sound.

        Take it even further, and you can claim that ALL recording is lossy because it involves a process in the analog world, and ANY process in the analog world can't be perfectly preserved.

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