back to article D'oh! Amber Rudd meant 'understand hashing', not 'hashtags'

It was the cringiest moment in an already gaffe-prone interview on The Andrew Marr Show last week. Speaking about preventing the upload of objectionable content, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the government needs to get people who "understand the necessary hashtags" talking. That was of course in addition to Rudd's widely …

  1. m0rt

    Extrapolate this facade into every aspect of Government and you now see why we're buggered.

    1. wolfetone

      Well, in fairness, they were elected by the public. So if anything it's a sad indication of how stupid the people of the United Kingdom are to be electing these clowns.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Said the yank while throwing stones into his glass house, after electing Trump.

        And also a reminder that Sarah Palin exists.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "it's a sad indication of how stupid the people of the United Kingdom are to be electing these clowns."

        The trouble is, the electorate is only given a choice between sets of clowns, so inevitably clowns is what we get.

        1. wolfetone
          Pint

          "The trouble is, the electorate is only given a choice between sets of clowns, so inevitably clowns is what we get."

          Can't argue with that logic.

        2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
          Big Brother

          The trouble is, the electorate is only given a choice between sets of clowns, so inevitably clowns is what we get.

          If we all made a concerted effort to spoil our ballot papers it would become quite obvious that the current 'system of democracy' was broken.

          Unfortunately it's not easy to convince people to do that and the powers that be will counter by making it easier for people to vote online, by post, by SMS, through Smart TVs, ATMs etc. As long as people are voting they can pretend the system is working just fine.

          It doesn't matter who gets elected, so long as the system persists.

          1. tiggity Silver badge

            Spoiling ballot paper is fine, but it does not really get reported.

            A "none of the above" option that was reported would help - I could easily see taht getting vteh highest number of votes in some constituencies

            With FPTP UK system some smaller parties only place candidates in a few seats where they see the chance of doing well / have decent support , so if you are in many constituencies you only get a few !mainstream" choices (and sadly none of those choices are better than massively mediocre) - not even the option of "minor" parties (not that a "minor" party necessarily means better, e.g. UKIP began as a minor party, but I'm sure even the most ardent Brexiteers will have to concede that internal shenanigans have made UKIP a farce recently ).

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              UK: none of the above => not legal

              In the UK (well, England anyway) the None of the Above option is explicitly banned, and any organisation or candidate who appears to be standing on such a platform will be blocked, howver reasonable their case may appear to be. This happened to at least two organisations in the last couple of general elections.

              See e.g. https://nota-uk.org/

              Some might find this interesting too, along similar lines:

              https://nota-uk.org/2017/02/02/meet-cambridge-analytica-the-big-data-communications-company-responsible-for-trump-brexit/

            2. Mage Silver badge
              Big Brother

              None of the Above

              I think unlikely to be coming to a ballot paper anywhere anytime as obviously the incumbents don't want evidence of how massively unpopular they are.

              1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

                Re: None of the Above

                We already have that option, and even tally it. Look at the total percentage turnout at the polling stations, subtract from 100 and you have the percentage who de-facto voted for "None of the Above,"

                If it was a party, it would easily win by a landslide.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  @Cynic_999 Re: None of the Above

                  >> We already have that option, and even tally it. Look at the total percentage turnout at the polling stations, subtract from 100 and you have the percentage who de-facto voted for "None of the Above,"

                  Actually, I would argue that not voting means you are de-facto votiing for "Any of the Above". That is why - in my opinion - voting is important because NOT voting means you are happy with any of the candidates. If you dislike even one candidate more than the others, then a vote for any other is a negative vote against that one you dislike.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "incumbents ... massively unpopular"

                "the incumbents don't want evidence of how massively unpopular they are."

                Surely that evidence of establishment unpopularity with the populace at large is now provided, by the election of Trump/Bannon and the "taking back control" of Brexit? After the last decade or so, arguably more, the only people who want the current establishment to remain in control are the current establishment themselves (both visible and invisible).

                I know quite a few people who voted for Brexit simply because they wanted to stick two fingers up at the Westminster establishment in a vote they expected to be very public (unlike spoilt ballots, NOTA candidates, etc). They didn't expect their vote to have actual real immediate(ish) consequences.

                And look where that's got us.

            3. cosmogoblin
              Facepalm

              I strongly believe that not only should "none of the above" be an option on the ballot, but it should be a returnable candidate. If we have the choice between a racist Purple Party candidate and an idiotic Yellow Party candidate, and "none" receives more votes, we have chosen to not be represented by either muppet and should leave an empty seat in the House of Commons (or wherever).

              Look at the 2012 PCC elections - average turnout 15% (2016 wasn't much better). Did we really vote for Mr Plod to be the police commissioner in our county? Or did we in fact not want an elected police commissioner? Spoiled papers are not counted in calculating winning scores, but are counted in turnout calculations, since whoever wins can claim a stronger "mandate" if the turnout was high - but even in the weakest turnout, government claims to have the full support of the people.

              FPTP turns this from a mockery into a farce. In every constituency across the country, exactly 51% of people vote Party A and 49% of people vote Party B. To any sensible person, this sounds like a compromise situation: give slightly more than half the seats to Party A. But to Westminster, this means Party A gets all the seats and Party B collapses like a flan in a cupboard.

              This isn't a theoretical extreme, either. 2015 general election: Tories get 36.9% of the vote, 24.5% of the electorate (on a 66.4% turnout), giving them 50.8% of MPs (actually slightly more due to Sinn Féin not taking up their seats) and 100% of the cabinet. And don't even get me started on the 2010 Lib Dems' "kingmaker" debacle...

            4. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "UKIP began as a minor party" - and now it has just as many MPs as the Monster Raving Loony Party !!

              1. Matt Siddall

                "UKIP began as a minor party" - and now it has just as many MPs as the Monster Raving Loony Party !!

                And had more votes than the Lib Dems and the SNP put together, or to put it another way, half a million more votes than:

                SNP + Green Party + DUP + Plaid Cymru + Sinn Féin + Ulster Unionist Party + Social Democratic & Labour Party (who between them got 77 seats)

            5. Bob Dole (tm)
              Holmes

              "none of the above" option

              >>A "none of the above" option that was reported would help -

              Yes, yes it would - and that is the exact reason why you'll never see any politician with any sense of self-preservation doing anything that would promote such a thing.

              Allowing the voters to actually give a No Confidence vote on the entire government infrastructure is just too powerful a reset button to trust them with.

          2. teebie

            'If we all made a concerted effort to spoil our ballot papers it would become quite obvious that the current 'system of democracy' was broken.'

            If that happened, then the party who secured a majority, even if it was from just 10% of the populace, would most likely be happy with the system - after all, it got them elected, so it must be right.

          3. EnricoSuarve

            I deliberately spoiled my ballot paper a few years ago in the first police crime commisioner election in our area. I even went to the trouble of writing why, and the way the lack of any real information what this new role was for perverted the democratic process.

            I found out next day that even though it was spoilt, my vote and thousands like it were counted in the turnout figures and being used to justify the whole farce. PS even with what I believe were record levels of spoiling we still had a record low 'turnout'

            So no. Vote spoiling does not work - your vote will be willfully misinterpreted to the benefit of whatever the powers that be want.

            Someone else on this thread had mentioned a 'None of the above' option - that is definitely what is required. RIP Richard Pryor I'd vote for you!

        3. Bill Gray

          Leaving aside for the moment that calling elected officials clowns is an unwarranted offensive to clowns...

          I vote for clowns because if I don't, the wrong clown might get elected.

          (My state passed -- just barely -- a referendum for ranked-choice voting last November. Naturally, it was, and is, strongly opposed by clowns.)

          1. teebie

            I wish I had a source for this, but I'm fairly sure a clown who ran for election and won (possibly Tiririca?) said they wouldn't stand for re-elections because "I can get more done as a clown"

        4. JimS

          Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

          Every time I think of elections now I think of the Stealers Wheel song with a slight twist:

          Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,

          Here I am, stuck in the middle of poo

          Sadly, it's seems to be a worldwide phenomenon, there's something about national and international politics that constantly attracts a majority of self serving, egomaniacal f*ck knuckles, regardless of the political flag they're claiming at the time of election.

        5. d3vy Silver badge

          "The trouble is, the electorate is only given a choice between sets of clowns, so inevitably clowns is what we get."

          That's not entirely accurate... We have ukip too, so it's clowns or arseholes.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I often think that, for a lot of people, there's genuine pride in not understanding technology. No idea why. But it's really the only explanation I can think of. Politicians are fine understanding the Law : that's technical, has it's own terminology etc. But present them with anything techie, and they seem to think it's okay for them to remain ignorant. Does it appear too nerdy? Do they think they have more important things to understand, and that techie stuff is just understood by socially awkward scrawny / overweight people who are hidden away in basements? How can they govern effectively when they are so desperately ignorant of how the world works these days?

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "But present them with anything techie, and they seem to think it's okay for them to remain ignorant."

          One reason is they can get away with it.

          The interviewers are equally ignorant. It seems acceptable that a degree in PPE, History, English Litt or whatever is acceptable not only for running a modern society but also for holding those running it to account.

          If Andrew Marr had had the knowledge to call bullshit on ignorant statements like that they'd PDQ decide that whoever was going to go on the show was at least properly briefed. Parties might even realise they'd need to have technically competent people appointed as ministers - even selected as candidates in the first place.

          1. Brenda McViking
            Joke

            PPE!

            You mentioned PPE. Had a good laugh at the twitter feed of Politics Philosophy and Economics graduates wearing Personal Protective Equipment

            https://twitter.com/ppeinppe?lang=en

        2. cosmogoblin

          Works with maths too. "I'm bad at maths" or "I hated maths at school" is a badge of honour for many people.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            To be fair

            being "bad" at maths may mean someone doesnt know that xy+zy=wahay but they CAN work out how much change they should get from their shopping. Thats not being bad at maths, thats not being bothered about pure maths, a very different thing. How many of us have needed to work out a venn diagram, or matricies since leaving school.

            As long as i have a basic level of numeracy, i'm just fine thanks.

            Did you know they dont teach long division anymore?? I didnt until my mates lad showed us his maths homework.

            First line, "Using a calculator, work out the following". My heart sank at that point. We are deliberatley making people dumb.

            1. Mathman

              Re: To be fair

              Numeracy is a good start but it is also useful to understand the basics of probability (how likely you will be killed by a terrorist) and statistics (median salary v mean salary, error bars, significance tests).

              So mathematics can help you better understand the world and the numbers that are reported in the news.

          2. cshore

            Time to quote CP Snow...

            "A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?

            "I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question — such as, What do you mean by mass, or acceleration, which is the scientific equivalent of saying, Can you read? — not more than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language. So the great edifice of modern physics goes up, and the majority of the cleverest people in the western world have about as much insight into it as their neolithic ancestors would have had."

            OK, he was talking about physics but his point remains valid about science and technology in general. It's OK to be completely ignorant about them and still be regarded as well educated and qualified to run the country.

  2. Simon Harris Silver badge
    Coat

    As usual...

    The government makes a hash of things.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amber alert

    Maybe she meant hashish?

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Amber alert

      Na, she'd probably just been Smoking it beforehand...

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: Amber alert

        "Na, she'd probably just been Smoking it beforehand..."

        No way - she'd have been much more relaxed (than her usual uptight state) if she would have...

        No, the current lot at the cabinet table are tripping on the most potent and addictive drug there is: POWER.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Amber alert

        @ lglethal

        Unlikely, she might have actually made sense if that was the case.

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Amber alert

      She was thinking of corned beef hash.

      She was sure of it, because corned beef is related to spam and that's an Internet thing, right?

  4. Lobrau

    "that both permits law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies to get the information they need, whilst also protecting privacy."

    Can't have both. Give them a yard and they take any length they damn well please

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Give them a yard - oh, a metre, no wait, it's a yard: a recent YouGov poll had 48% of Leave voters wanting to bring back selling things in pounds and ounces - also 30% for incandescent light bulbs, 42% for corporal punishment in schools, and an incredible 53% for bringing back the death penalty.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "bring back selling things in pounds and ounces"

        That's fine, it's a binary system. We just need to get all the other measurements converted. A stone, for instance, would have to become 16ibs (there's not a fundamental issue here as historically a stone wasn't fixed at 14; a C18th diary records someone being weighed and he specifically states that it was a stone of 15lbs).

        I always reckoned that instead of going decimal in the 1970s we should have gone binary. A penny as 1/256 of a £ would have been quite close to its original value of 1/240.

  5. David 132 Silver badge

    Uh, sure.

    Sir Humphrey: "Oh dear. We have a problem after the Minister's interview this morning. People have actually examined what she said, rather than just letting the feel-good platitudes wash over them like they're supposed to. Find something that sounds like "hashtags" that we can plausibly claim she actually meant to say."

    Bernard [after 10 minutes frantic searching on wikipedia]: "How about 'hashing'? It's something to do with pictures, apparently, lots of binaries and codes in there, don't understand it myself and none of the other Oxford PPEs I asked do, so it must be seriously nerdy."

    SH: "Excellent. Send out a correction to all the usual news outlets. Now, back to business. What were you saying about Gibraltar?"

  6. Kirstian K
    Coat

    LOL

    thats me sending the poor dear, lots of love obviously.

    but you know, if we could convince every dodgy doc/image etc author to HashTag it in its properties,

    i guess it 'would' make tracking them easier.... and save all the nasty hard work involved in this dastardly hashing and researching of all of the nasties out there...

    1. Steve the Cynic

      Re: LOL

      Sounds like you're proposing an extended version of the RFC 3514 EVIL bit...

  7. hplasm Silver badge
    Facepalm

    ZzzzzZzzzzzZzzzz!

    The sound of furious backpedalling...

  8. Huw D Silver badge

    People in power that don't understand technology make statements about technology that people who do understand technology rip to shreds.

    Amber Rudd isn't the first and she sure as hell won't be the last.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge
      FAIL

      "People in power that don't understand technology make statements about technology that people who do understand technology rip to shreds."

      Not just power and technology. You see it all the time in TV reports - take any subject you're knowledgeable about and watch a documentary on it. You'll be killing yourself laughing - or possibly just killing yourself - in no time.

      This is because the only thing journalists know about is writing stories. And the only thing MPs know about are getting elected. And the only thing ministers know about is sucking up to other ministers. These are all specialist subjects and guarantee that the office-holders know nothing about ANYTHING else.

      The establishment way of dealing with this is to have civil servant 'experts' who provide appropriate advice. What they're actually expert at is holding down a civil service job, because nobody who knows more is allowed to challenge them. Fail again.

    2. Mike Richards

      It's almost making me nostalgic for the days when Jack Straw would pipe up about the wonders of key escrow and all those wonderfully interchangeable Home Office ministers like Andy Burnham and Meg Hillier were never off our televisions explaining how biometric ID cards were completely unbeatable and not at all a privacy issue.

      It's good to see the Home Office still hasn't the faintest.

  9. cmannett85

    Can someone enlighten me, because I thought 'hashing' in this context was just checksum generation?

    Which means that just changing the resolution, or cropping, or changing the colour of a single pixel of an image would change the hash value. So wouldn't you need something more akin to resolution-independent (vector-based) feature detection of images?

    1. TitterYeNot

      "Can someone enlighten me, because I thought 'hashing' in this context was just checksum generation?"

      Yes, if you used something like an MD5 or SHA1 hash, changing just a few bits in an image file would result in a different hash. Image hashing uses different algorithms though, which will result in the same hash even if a digital image is resized, rotated or has altered gamma values i.e. if it looks pretty much the same to the human eye, you'll get the same hash.

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Here we see the difference between someone blindly repeating something they thought they'd heard of without understanding it and someone reading a statement written for them by someone who did understand it. Note that there's no need for the person reading the statement to understand it.

    1. nano200

      So if she is the puppet then the puppeteer is.....?

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Wearing gloves, we hope.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The lizards, I thought every one knew that?

        #LizardOverlords

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        if she is the puppet then the puppeteer is.....

        Well obviously it isn't #charlesfarr. Well, not *just* him. Probably.

        You can google it but make sure you bury the search in a stream of unrelated irrelevances, or get lots of mates to do it at the same time and Twit it too, or maybe all of the above.

  11. Daedalus Silver badge

    It worked for MI5

    The best way to get these things into the brains of Whitehall droids is to make them the answers in the Times crossword.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: It worked for MI5

      14 down: First half shit in goal on Internet.

  12. mrchuckles

    Channelling Trump and Johnson. It's the political FOTM.

  13. Your alien overlord - fear me

    "We continue to work with all those with an interest in this issue" - nope, no ones spoken to me. What about you lot?

    1. Mike Richards

      Do you have a stack on buzzword-emblazoned Powerpoint slides on how cloud-based machine-learning big-data heuristics can blah... blah... blah..? Are your salesmen equipped with suitably expensive Swiss watches and lavish entertainment accounts? Are you related to any members of the Cabinet? Have you donated lots of money through back channels to the Conservatives?

      If you've answered 'no' to any of the questions above then sorry, you don't have a government-sanctioned 'interest' in this issue.

  14. Tom Wood

    "Banning end-to-end encryption"

    Haigh also asked what assessment has been conducted of the consequences for (a) the UK economy and (b) national security of banning end-to-end encryption?

    How could the government ban end-to-end encryption? Or rather, how could they enforce such a ban? Assuming they can inspect all internet traffic, encrypted content should be indistinguishable from random noise, so are they going to ban sending random data over the internet? Assuming not, an encryption tool could just hide genuine data in amongst a stream of random noise; there's no way they could force you to decrypt the random noise because it's impossible to do so, and no way for them to tell which of the packets contain encrypted content.

    Of course they could prevent named service providers from offering messaging apps that use end-to-end encryption, but someone (probably abroad) would just create another one, or the terrorists will use PGP or something. We all know how well attempts at banning that went.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: "Banning end-to-end encryption"

      A great idea, obviously. Here's something we cannot comprehend . . let's ban it ! Yea !

      Go ahead, ban encryption. Apart from the obvious fact that, as soon as you have actually passed that into law every single UK-based website with personal details will be seeing their customer lists pilfered like there's no tomorrow, you are - again, obviously - overlooking the fact that banning encryption will only ban it in your little country. The rest of the world will still be using it.

      That means you will be depriving your economy from an essential tool that everyone else will still be using. Does that sound like a good idea ? Only if you're a member of HM's Government, apparently.

      Might as well bin the guns and arm your troops with swords & crossbows while you're at it. At least they'll look rad and the LARP fans will go wild with joy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Banning end-to-end encryption"

        >That means you will be depriving your economy from an essential tool that everyone else will still be using. Does that sound like a good idea ? Only if you're a member of HM's Government, apparently.

        If two options exists, HMG will *always* choose to employ the least obvious and most disruptive to the electorate or business that are effected by it.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: "Banning end-to-end encryption"

      Encrypt and then steganographicly embed in cat videos etc.

      Yes, banning secret communications is impossible. Even forum posts don't have to be like Amanfrommars to have hidden encrypted payloads.

      It's amazing that some numbers stations are still running, or were last year when I checked. Presumably for spies with no mobile / internet access.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: "Banning end-to-end encryption"

        I'd suggest talking to some computer forensics people. Yes stenography is theoretically possible, but it's practically hard and tends to leave traces. And there have been convictions on the back of those traces and curiously manipulated jpeg files.

        My guess - 90% of people who try to encrypt and hide it will make a mistake, which is odds most prosecutors would love to have.

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: "Banning end-to-end encryption"

          "

          I'd suggest talking to some computer forensics people.

          "

          I'd suggest talking to some cryptography people who do not have an interest in discouraging people from using steganography. If legislation makes ordinary encryption difficult to get away with, then you can bet that applications that implement effective steganography will soon emerge. Applications I have seen that claim to be able to detect steganography have about an equal number of false negatives as false positives. IOW no better than flipping a coin.

          1. Adam 52 Silver badge

            Re: "Banning end-to-end encryption"

            "suggest talking to some cryptography people who do not have an interest in discouraging"

            Ah, yes, I forgot that the public has had enough of experts and now only listen to those with their point of view.

            "then you can bet that applications that implement effective steganography will soon emerge."

            That's the same argument that the politicians use - technology will find a way - whether it's carbon capture, breakable-yet-unbreakable encryption or a warp drive.

            "Applications I have seen that claim to be able to detect steganography have about an equal number of false negatives as false positives"

            It doesn't matter. Sniffer dogs are way worse than that. Yet they still give you an idea where to look.

            There will be a stenography app. Or traces off. Unless you think everyone will be capable of hand-coding a secure app direct to volatile storage. Stenography app, strange cat video, unexplained holiday to Pakistan. Juries would convict on much, much less.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Banning end-to-end encryption"

        Even easier is to use a semaphore code, just different posts in, e. g. 4chan.org, to signal back & forth just as we use signal flags, still in our respective navies. Pictures, phrases, links, it's not even demanding. If encryption is desired, start a bank account and telegraph by size of purchases or withdrawals. Checking ones balance certainly isn't unusual, even if done daily.

      3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: "Banning end-to-end encryption"

        "It's amazing that some numbers stations are still running, or were last year when I checked. Presumably for spies with no mobile / internet access."

        Depending on where the recipient is working, that's still just good tradecraft.

        Unless, of course, they are still running because some part of a byzantine bureaucrazy* simply hasn't come around to switching them off yet.

        * Well, think about it - that's the way it should be spelled.

    3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Last time this came up

      Joe Biden proposed a law mandating back doors in all encrypted communication. He also plagiarised Neil Kinnock's speeches. The result was steganography software which created output that resembled a Neil Kinnock speech.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Last time this came up

        "He also plagiarised Neil Kinnock's speeches."

        Why? Surely the only known effect of a Kinnock speech is to ensure the speaker never gets into office.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Last time this came up

          wait - what was that? Sorry, i fell asleep halfway through ...

  15. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    Pity the poor civil servant

    who has to take Amber Rudd's witless meanderings and try to find some semi-plausible misreading that might just have made sense if you're being generous. That's not a job I'd do even if you offered me a premier league footballer's salary.

    1. Spudley

      Re: Pity the poor civil servant

      Pity the poor civil servant who has to take Amber Rudd's witless meanderings and try to find some semi-plausible misreading that might just have made sense if you're being generous. That's not a job I'd do even if you offered me a premier league footballer's salary.

      Perhaps that attitude is why she's not getting any good advice on the topic and is having to make it all up as she goes along.

      Maybe if more people were willing to engage directly rather than moaning about it to others who already agree with them, then just maybe we'd get politicians to say something slightly more sensible.

      1. Vic

        Re: Pity the poor civil servant

        Maybe if more people were willing to engage directly rather than moaning about it to others who already agree with them, then just maybe we'd get politicians to say something slightly more sensible.

        Have you tried engaging with MPs?

        Anything that requires a second's thought will be ignored, palmed off with a letter written by an office junior about how wonderful some idea of their own is that sounds almost like it might be pertinent to your question as long as you don't actually read any of the words...

        Been there. Got sick of the T-shirt.

        Vic.

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Pity the poor civil servant

          Anything that requires a second's thought will be ignored, palmed off with a letter written by an office junior about how wonderful some idea of their own is that sounds almost like it might be pertinent to your question as long as you don't actually read any of the words...

          Definitely true. My wife tried engaging with Rudd several times when she was minister for energy & climate change. Ignored or meaningless form letter every time. My wife was employed as a consultant by DECC at the time.

      2. Marcus Fil

        Re: Pity the poor civil servant

        "Maybe if more people were willing to engage directly rather than moaning about it to others who already agree with them, then just maybe we'd get politicians to say something slightly more sensible."

        Not worked with many politicians have you? They are not all bad, but the good ones are few and far between. I suggest a test, let us all write to our local MPs on a subject we understand and see how many of the replies make sense and do not just reflect the pat party line. Don't get your hopes up.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Pity the poor civil servant

        "Perhaps that attitude is why she's not getting any good advice on the topic and is having to make it all up as she goes along."

        I think it was working the other way round. She'd had a meeting where hashing images was explained to her and this was how she remembered it. I suppose she'd have taken offence if whoever briefed her asked her then & there to explain it in her own words and then corrected her. It would probably have been a far from brief briefing and she'd probably have still mangled it the next day anyway.

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Pity the poor civil servant

      Perhaps they are evaluating revsersible encryption algorithms by applying them to her utterances and seeing whether her original pearls of wisdom can subsequently be recovered...

  16. The_Idiot

    ""Last week's attack has highlighted the need for a proper public debate on this issue."

    Ben Wallace - for Amber Rudd, I assume.

    "Because what we want to do is collect information this year so that next year we can have an adult conversation in this country."

    James Comey

    I would be fine with said 'public debate' - or even Mr Comey's 'adult conversation' - if either had the right subject. But, for me, that subject is _not_ 'should we be allowed to insist that technology providers give us some magic back door only we will be able to use, like, _evah_, and Bad Folks won't ever be able to find out.'. Mathematics, in the context of _that_ question, has already spoken, and a debate has no purpose.

    No - for me, the subject of that 'debate', that 'conversation' should be something like 'are you, the people, both willing and happy to accept that you should not be permitted any privacy, any discreet communication (because anything we do Bad Folks will find out how to do) to try to reduce the risks of terrorism/ other threats. By the way - your chance of being impacted by those threats has been independently and verifiably assessed as (insert number here).'

    Somehow I don't see them asking the second question though - they'll carry on with the first one. Sigh...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Because what we want to do is collect information this year so that next year we can have an adult conversation in this country."

      But where do you find the adults to have a conversation with?

  17. User McUser
    Big Brother

    Can't Stop the Encryption

    You don't need a computer to do encryption; using computers is merely faster and easier.

    I mean you could literally sit down with a copy of the AES specification, an ASCII or Unicode chart, a pencil and some paper and manually encrypt or decrypt any message you wanted as long as you had the appropriate keys and an understanding of the math. I don't know how long it would take, but you could do it.

    You can force them to use an unencrypted protocol but you can't force them to send plaintext.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Can't Stop the Encryption

      You don't need a computer to do encryption; using computers is merely faster and easier.

      A deck of cards is sufficient. See the Solitaire cipher.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can't Stop the Encryption

      @ User McUser ; I don't understand what- if anything- that's supposed to add to the debate beyond smartass intellectual masturbation.

      Yes, we all know that what you say regarding AES is pedantically correct. We all- yourself included, as you acknowledged- also know that it would be so ludicrously impractical to do it by hand that this is irrelevant.

      So- what was your actual point?

      1. User McUser

        Re: Can't Stop the Encryption

        So- what was your actual point?

        You might be able to decrypt the data, but that doesn't mean you'll automatically be able to understand the message.

        1. Mike Richards

          Re: Can't Stop the Encryption

          See Amber Rudd's speech. I mean I understand every word, but I don't have a fucking clue what she was talking about.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Can't Stop the Encryption

            "I don't have a fucking clue what she was talking about."

            To be fair, neither did she.

  18. 0laf Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Ya boo

    We politicians demand to at the forefront of any and all decisions about this shiny cyber digital shit even though we have absolutely fuck all idea what we're talking about.

    It's all electric magic anyway so you nerds just piss off and don't come back until it works just the way I have it in my head or I've moved onto a new job.

  19. tedleaf

    Do who have even one mp who has a degree etc in any hard science or engineering now?

    I know we had got down to just one recently ..

    1. cshore

      The only one I am ware of is Heidi Allen (C South Cambs) who has a degree in Astrophysics. Cambridge also used to have Julian Huppert (who had a PhD in Biochemistry and was an active research scientist) but he lost his seat in the Lib Dem apocalypse.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        There's a list here, as of 2012 I think

        https://github.com/SubtleEngine/MPs-Degrees/blob/master/MP_Uni_output.tsv

  20. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    The government seriously should get to grips with the problem of foreigners entering the country on forged Microsoft Passports too.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So are we banning maths in schools as well?

    We wouldn't want citizens to have any crazy ideas by learning to encrypt stuff themselves.

  22. Dave 15 Silver badge

    Dumb and dumber

    Well she is clearly a tad out of her depth, but frankly in an era of career politicians with little or no knowledge outside of politics and far less in the areas they are supposed to be responsible for this is not unusual. Indeed, just look at the way people are moved from education to defence, from their to home and the treasury etc. at a whim you can see the system of patronage is rotten and serves us badly. However this is not restricted to politics, you can go from destroying a bank to running a chain of chemist shops, but we all know you aren't allowed to go from embedded software to banking software because 'it is all so different' (or put another way, if you could those already there would get paid less).

    However if using image hash to prevent duplicates becomes widely used I wonder how it will work or avoid circumvention. Already youtube features many videos with the top or bottom few % removed, or a frame added, or sometimes mirror imaged. I assume all tricks to avoid the bulk removal of your content when someone is claiming copyright theft on some old film/tv program you can't get legally anyway.

    And yes, I know about the dea of hashing producing 'unique numbers' but the pool of values is limited (depending on the size of the hash), given the number of images on the net these days I wonder how much computing power is needed to hash them and how often we will find two images sharing the same hash...

  23. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    The ministers have stated that it isn't necessary

    The government is saying that we need not have any concerns, because the "back door" will only ever be used on pedoterrorists, drug lords and other seriously bad, evil people.

    In which case just take the proof of the fact that the person is a criminal who justifies the use of the back door to court and convict the person - a back door is not necessary.

    Unless of course the government really means that it will only be used on those *suspected* of being a pedoterrorist etc. Which is a different thing entirely. Anyone and everyone can be merely *suspected* of criminal activities, so it does not amount to any safeguard whatsoever.

    1. Fonant

      Re: The ministers have stated that it isn't necessary

      Also, one man's "terrorist" is another man's "freedom fighter". The definitions of those can, and often do, change with time.

      See: Nelson Mandela, Martin McGuinness, etc.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    After contact with her Piers...Amber uses Steganography.

    Amber Rudd, was overly Hasty-taggy as ever today, as she was in contact with her Piers, to show off her new technical abilities.

    She sent this decisive tweet with the unnecessary hastags, regarding Hastings Pier.

    https://twitter.com/amberrudd_mp/status/848831684980219904

    She made her first use of cryptography, by using steganography to embed a message within the image.

    As you can see it reads "YOU CAN SAVE ME".

    I assume this was aimed at the technically knowledgeable El Reg readers.

  25. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    On On

    I'm Hasher myself and started to read the article thinking that finally El Reg was going to cover something that's fun, entertaining, healthy and involves beer! You can imaging my disappointment when I started reading and discovered it's just the usual crap.

    http://www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/festivals/reddressrun.html

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    #FAIL

    "Last week's attack has highlighted the need for a proper public debate on this issue. The government will be working with internet companies to ensure they fulfil their moral and social responsibility to help our police and security services to keep us all safe."

    Proper public debate does not mean just talking to big companies (having frozen out the SMEs from public sector work by procurement rules designed to create work for lawyers rather than getting a job done). It means a debate - with both sides engaging and knowing something about the subject: that means MPs and civil servants have to engage with and respond to the public, not just special interest groups or Fleet Street editors.

    The average MP only seems to understand technology when they want to tweet the latest nonsense (for example, those expressing undying support for the rights of the people of Gibraltar yet failing to do anything to protect the rights of their own constituents). The latest set of "initiatives" - this nonsense, IR35 changes, etc - could even be designed to drive new specialists even further from the public sector....

  27. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    can someone ask her about digital signatures now? :-)

    X his mark.

  28. Rattus Rattus

    Rudd was referring to image hashing

    No she wasn't.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Rudd was referring to image hashing

      I don't believe she was either.

      As Secretary for Energy and Climate Change, Ofgem / Amber Rudd had tweets referencing her, tagged with the hashtag #Fuseless, as in Fuse (electricity) and Fcuking Useless to show Ofgem's/her complete inability to take action against @CoopEnergy's inept failed broken billing system. (@CoopEnergy failed Billing system is now an ongoing issue for 2 years, customer service is as bad a ever, if you go by the current tweets)

      And of course, Ofgem never did, but maybe the hashtag thing stuck.

      Ofgem didn't even issue a "fine", they just forced a compensation payout to affected customers which amounted to £7 avg, per customer.

      If anyone is looking for an Energy Supplier, try to check their online systems first, there are a lot of bad ones out there, unbelievably, there is no ofgem regulation to check systems are "fit for purpose".

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And David Moyes meant to say.....

    "You'll get a slap up lunch....."

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Think of the childern

    Well it had to happen. There's a petition to ban the sale of hydroxic acid:

    https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/729/209/180/

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