back to article Family wrongly accused of uploading pedo material to Facebook – after US-EU date confusion in IP address log

A family in Spain was erroneously accused of uploading child sex abuse material to Facebook because Spanish investigators read a date in a US report as if it used the European date format. According to a report in El Pais this month, Spanish authorities received a report from the US-based National Center for Missing and …

  1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Headmaster

    International Standards Organization

    Nitpick, it's the International Organization for Standardization. Known in French as the Organisation internationale de normalisation, and intentionally referred to as ISO, which matches neither, because to call it IOS or OIN would be to give one language precedence over the other and probably upset the French.

    And yes, it would be good if companies used standards for things like dates and phone numbers. In my experience, European businesses tend to use the standards, and US ones tend to assume everything is American (or perhaps, to be unaware that anything non-American exists). When emailing my US colleagues I always write dates out with the month by name.

    1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: International Standards Organization

      Given as we can't even agree on a standard spelling of Standardisation, what chance do they really have?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Though that one is easier to fix

        As the use of 'z' is correct in the UK and the US, even if the UK does tend to use 's' (which is never correct in the US).

        1. Mage Silver badge

          Re: Though that one is easier to fix

          Grey and Gray are both allowed in UK & Ireland. Only one is allowed in USA?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Though that one is easier to fix

            Grey and gray are both used here in the US, depending on context and location.

            1. Symon Silver badge
              Holmes

              Re: Though that one is easier to fix

              Grey's Anatomy --> TV programme.

              Gray's Anatomy --> Book.

              1. David 132 Silver badge
                Coat

                Re: Though that one is easier to fix

                Graze Anatomy --> between consenting adults only

              2. jake Silver badge

                Re: Though that one is easier to fix

                I remember wondering how they managed to get around the copyright, but not being a soap opera aficionado I never cared enough to look into it. Ta :-)

          2. dogcatcher

            Re: Though that one is easier to fix

            Bet there's a problem at US border control especially after a transatlantic flight when everyone looks grey.

            1. SWCD

              Re: Though that one is easier to fix

              Tranzatlantic, surely? :-)

        2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Though that one is easier to fix

          ...and if you were [un?]fortunate enough to spend part of your childhood in a British Commonwealth country, subsequently returning to the US, you use them interchangeably and don't care!

          Dates in slash format always require a little extra thought.

          "Color" and "neighbor" seem to get spelled the US way (most of the time at least), but "standardisation" usually comes out the UK way

      2. MrBanana

        Re: International Standards Organization

        The common workaround for "internationali{z|s}ation" is i18n.

      3. BenM 29
        Coat

        Re: International Standards Organization

        Spelling in the US of A was deliberatly broken afteer the rebels dumped the tea in the harbour - it was intended to show that, although they spoke, nominally, the same langage as us original English speakers, they were no longer us.....

        IIRC S and Z in Engerlish English reflect the Latin or Greek origin of the word (in theory) - which again was largely a "we aren't them" type move on behalf of the Romans (though between aristos and peasants)!

        plus ca change and all that... language is fun.

        /mines the one with publications by Cawdry, Johnson and Noah Webster falling out of the pockets

        1. Jeffrey Nonken

          Re: International Standards Organization

          I have been led to understand that the joke about the Stonehenge monument being in danger of being crushed by a dwarf (This is Spinal Tap) happened because we Murricans also swapped the meanings of " and ' for feet and inches for the same reason: spite.

          I didn't even know about the symbols being swapped until a friend pointed it out. And suddenly I understood the joke.

          I remember learning the two symbols as a child and thinking that it made more sense for " to mean "feet" and ' to mean "inches" because " was a larger symbol and feet is a larger measurement. But what would a child know about sense, eh?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: International Standards Organization

            Didn't down vote you BTW, but to me ' meant feet as it was one mark and so first. " - two marks, so comes second.

            FWIW - I'm 6' tall, and here's a two metre cable!

            1. aqk
              Windows

              Re: International Standards Organization

              Goodness! 6'!

              How many stone are you?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: International Standards Organization

          I read somewhere that American English was closer to the original. It was us Limeys that messed about the language for what ever reason

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: International Standards Organization

      Just kill the stupid US date format.

      I don't mind them keeping inches, Fahrenheit, the confusing pounds alone for body weight or their spelling. Or their own names for things.

      Though I try to either write the month or use YYYY-MM-DD. I now use YYYY-MM-DD on all my spreadsheets etc.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: International Standards Organization

        "I don't mind them keeping inches, Fahrenheit, the confusing pounds alone for body weight or their spelling. Or their own names for things."

        That is ever so magnanimous of you. Thank you for your permission. In return, I'll allow you to keep spelling things in the French manner, instead of in proper English like wot we do.

        As for other bits & bobs ... How many stone do you weigh, exactly? And what are the dimensions of your favorite cricket pitch? How many miles between York and Leeds? Lovely thing, that metrical system, eh?

        1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

          Re: International Standards Organization

          Look, why don't the two of you compromise.

          @jake - you can start by admitting there's a fucking H in the word 'erbs

          We'll accept that you say Aloominum because that's what it was originally called, and we amended it to make it match other element names

          1. Sean o' bhaile na gleann

            Re: International Standards Organization

            I once landed a gig with US-based company. The bit of paper I thankfully had in my hand specified a start date of "1st December yyyy". When I turned up at the office, HR tried to kick me out, saying I wasn't expected until 12 January, conveniently ignoring the change of year number...

          2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            Re: International Standards Organization

            We'll accept that you say Aloominum because that's what it was originally called

            As ever, things are even more complicated than that. From the webelements site:

            In 1761 de Morveau proposed the name "alumine" for the base in alum. In 1807, Davy proposed the name alumium for the metal, undiscovered at that time, and later agreed to change it to aluminum. Shortly thereafter, the name aluminium was adopted by IUPAC to conform with the "ium" ending of most elements. Aluminium is the IUPAC spelling and therefore the international standard. Aluminium was also the accepted spelling in the U.S.A. until 1925, at which time the American Chemical Society decided to revert back to aluminum, and to this day Americans still refer to aluminium as "aluminum".

            Someone else can explain why our transatlantic cousins dithered in 1925.

            1. Cederic Silver badge

              Re: International Standards Organization

              Having heard many Americans speak I suspect they were merely reflecting the commonplace mispronunciation.

              1. hitmouse

                Re: International Standards Organization

                "mispronOUnciation" is the most common mispronunciation

                1. Cederic Silver badge

                  Re: International Standards Organization

                  I'm not sure that using the incorrect spelling 'mispronounciation' would change the correctness of how you pronounce mispronunciation.

                2. jake Silver badge

                  Re: International Standards Organization

                  ""mispronOUnciation" is the most common mispronunciation"

                  Where is it pronounced like that? Certainly not around here ...

            2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

              Re: International Standards Organization

              Ah thanks, that was closer to the version I had in my head when I googled to verify before and found a different answer.

              Although ISTR Webster spelt a word wrong in his dictionary and the US still uses the mistake. Must not have been Aluminium though

          3. jake Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: International Standards Organization

            I grow lots of herbs ... I've always pronounced the h. Was I not supposed to?

            I say aluminum when I'm talking to my fellow Yanks. I say aluminium when I'm talking to most of the rest of the planet. I spell it alumin(i)um here on ElReg, so the silly-arse pedants can't claim that they don't know what I'm talking about, even though they clearly do. Similar for colo(u)r, favo(u)r, flavo(u)r, and etc. Sometimes I'll throw in an Oxford comma, just to piss 'em off :-)

            And when you boil it all down, Shirley it's a matter of getting your point across in a forum like this, regardless of how you spell it.

            One thing we can all agree on ... I'll get the next round in. Pints, of course, none of that Metric shit.

            1. aqk
              Stop

              Re: International Standards Organization

              OK, Jack. But please don't call me "Shirley".

      2. I am the liquor Bronze badge

        Re: Pounds alone for bodyweight

        Never mind bodyweight, they use pounds alone for everything, no matter how ridiculous the numbers get. They will tell you with a straight face that the cargo capacity of a C5 is 281,001 lb or that the Statue Of Liberty stands on 54,000,000 lb of concrete.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Pounds alone for bodyweight

          the cargo capacity of a C5 is 281,001 lb

          And absolutely not 281,002 lb?

          What if the pilot had an especially big breakfast?

          1. Craig 2
            Joke

            Re: Pounds alone for bodyweight

            "What if the pilot had an especially big breakfast?"

            Tower: Sorry, you're not cleared for takeoff until you & the copilot go for a shit.

          2. I am the liquor Bronze badge

            Re: Pounds alone for bodyweight

            INT: COLONEL STICKLER'S OFFICE - DAY

            COL STICKLER

            What do you mean you accidentally left your packed lunch in the cargo bay? That was a max-load test flight! You could have crashed the plane!

            SGT LOAFER

            Well, it didn't crash, did it.

            COL STICKLER

            Hmmm, no. I guess the max load is a pound more than we thought it was.

          3. jake Silver badge

            Re: Pounds alone for bodyweight

            That capacity is a paperwork thing, to be used if they need a scapegoat for an accident when carrying heavy loads. In reality, the plane can carry quite a bit more than the listed maximum (see: fudge factor). Professional pilots know how far they can push their aircraft in an emergency situation. Professional aircraft maintainers know that the airframe & engines will need a good looking at immediately thereafter.

            Note that as the size of the aircraft drops, the smaller the percentage that one should exceed the listed gross takeoff weight by (usually) ... to the point where with most single engine general aviation aircraft, one should always treat the listed max weight as a hard limit.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: Just kill the stupid US date format.

        Don't forget their insistence in using AM/PM in published timetables.

        They really do need to get into the 20th Century let alone the 21st.

        1. onemark03

          Re: re: Just kill the stupid US date format.

          Agree entirely.

          And let's make sure we don't end up driving on the wrong (right-hand) side of the road, too! ;-)

      4. Number6

        Re: International Standards Organization

        Unless required to use another format I tend to use YYYY-MM-DD too. Some of us even managed to persuade my employer to adopt it as a standard format on documents too.

        The only date that Americans get right is the 4th July. Ironic, really.

      5. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: International Standards Organization

        Just kill the stupid US date format.

        Even as an American, I dislike the US method of writing dates. It's neither Big-endian or Little-endian, but rather scrambles the sorting order entirely. For that matter, when it comes to proper sorting order, I prefer YYYY-MM-DD (or YYYY/MM/DD) as that's immediately obvious for intent, as well as readily sortable.

        Otherwise, if I need to write out a date I need to send someone, I'll use a YYYY-mmm-DD (3-letter abbreviation for the month) or YYYYmmmDD.

        1. Stork Silver badge

          Re: International Standards Organization

          As I professionally correspond with a lot of Germans, I have largely adopted their traditional format dd.mm.yyyy (sometimes they, but not I) even use d.m.yy to add to the confusion.

          At least in our case context helps - most rent houses one or 2 weeks, and I always have "from" and "to" dates.

      6. aqk
        Stop

        Re: International Standards ZZTop?

        As long as the commonwealth.is not forced to play the music of that hideous "rock" group Zed Zed Top !

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: International Standards Organization

      "t would be good if companies used standards for things"

      The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from. —Andrew S. Tanenbaum

      1. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

        Re: International Standards Organization

        Well, YOU may have standards, but I'm so woke that I have double-standards.

    4. Steve Button

      Simple solution

      If we could just stop using a number for the date, and adopt 15-Sep-2020, or Sep-15-2020 for Americans, then we would all be happy(ier). At least these poor sods would have been happier.

      1. Steve Button

        Re: Simple solution

        Even as I hit "Submit" I realised that this would not work, because of foreign languages. So, let's stick with the ISO standard for now, until English becomes the de facto standard language on the planet.

        1. JetSetJim Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Simple solution

          >until English becomes the de facto standard language on the planet.

          Depending on politics, birth rates and the 4 horsemen, the de facto language may end up being Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Hindi or any number of others

          The date stuff will be a clusterfuck until Excel has a tool to swap format without altering the digits in the string displayed. Am fed up from importing a spreadsheet with it set in USian into a UK spreadsheet and it borking the whole lot

          1. hitmouse

            Re: Simple solution

            "until Excel has a tool to swap format without altering the digits in the string displayed. "

            There are literally so many ways to deal with this via formatting, functions or scripts and they have been there in Excel for roughly three decades. I can only assume that you're a geneticist.

            1. JetSetJim Silver badge

              Re: Simple solution

              > I can only assume that you're a geneticist.

              I'm not, but still haven't come across such tools. Formatting doesn't cut the mustard - sure you can swap from mm/dd/yyyy to dd/mm/yyyy, but if you've already got a date in there it preserves the internal "days since 1/1/1900". If I've accidentally typed 1/3/2020 for first of march but Excel stores it as USian, converting the format to UK will have it read 3/1/2020 when I wanted it to read 1/3/2020.

              Functions? Which ones? You could mangle it by extracting day/month/year via the functions of the same name, and then reassemble while swapping day and month around, but that doesn't strike me as elegant (summat like "=date(year(a1),day(a1),month(a1)")

              Scripts - sure I could write some VB to do it, but it's only happened enough to annoy me, not regularly enough to warrant making a custom macro that I store and add to spreadsheets when I need to deal with it.

              Happy to be told if I've missed something

      2. shortfatbaldhairyman

        Re: Simple solution

        This is exactly what I insist on. 15-September-2020 fixes that.

        Languages different, can be a problem. But I do not anticipate (!) dealing with that. locale magic might help, but I have not gone that way.

        Anyway, anything to do with datetime coding is hellish.

        1. Jeffrey Nonken

          Re: Simple solution

          Personally, in most cases I'll use DD-MMM-YYYY (e.g. 12-Jan-2020) or some close variant, which makes sense to everybody (well, English-readers, anyway) while being unequivocal and brief. If it's a filename or something else that needs sorted I'll use YYYY-MM-DD or similar (if it's likely to be sorted I'll use leading zeroes as well). Obviously if a form specifies a format I'll use that format. Sometimes if I'm filling in USian paperwork I'll use MM/DD/YYYY, but only if it makes sense to, and I'm always conscious of it.

          I grew up with MM/DD/YY but I've experienced considerable enlightenment since then.

          But I will give up my weird measurement units when you pry them from my cold, dead hands. The metric system is the work of the devil! My car gets 82 rods to the hogshead, and that's how I likes it!

          We need an icon for Old Man Yells At Cloud.

          1. Number6

            Re: Simple solution

            Last time I had to fill in US entry paperwork (many years ago now), I recollect them specifying DD/MM/YYYY for the dates. I assume they did it that way because so many people visitng write it like that without reading the form more closely and it made their life easier when processing.

          2. Stork Silver badge

            Re: Simple solution

            For file names I was exposed to mainframes - I think DB2 used YYYYMMDD-HH.MM.SS.XXXXXX.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: International Standards Organization

      I think US administration should introduce sanctions against them. And against all those rogue states that worship their terrible, undemocratic metric system threatening the American Way of Life!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: International Standards Organization

        Yep, they are in fact a terrorist organisation, threatening the very framework on which America is grounded.

    6. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: International Standards Organization

      Let's start by using SI units everywhere, it will be a huge progress (and it will avoid to crash probes on Mars)

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: International Standards Organization

        The US came close to going metric in the 70s, then had second thoughts around automobile tooling or such, and backed out.

        There are still a [very] few metric distances on road signs around here. Now, our autos are all metric anyway, since they're sold worldwide (the good ones, at least) or are owned by foreign companies. However, we stubbornly cling to the imperial system of inches, quarters, eighths and sixteenths (and sometimes thirtyseconds) for our tools. And have to have two sets.

        I've been an engineer (electrical) for over forty years, and I will probably be dead before this country goes metric. Anyway, at the moment, we have bigger problems...

        // 10mm box wrench in the pocket

        1. Mark Exclamation

          Re: International Standards Organization

          "Now, our autos are all metric anyway, since they're sold worldwide (the good ones, at least)..." Er, please name one good American "auto".

        2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: International Standards Organization

          However, we stubbornly cling to the imperial system of inches, quarters, eighths and sixteenths (and sometimes thirtyseconds) for our tools. And have to have two sets.

          You must not be working on old British cars then, otherwise you'd have to have a Whitworth set as well.

    7. FrogsAndChips Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: International Standards Organization

      When emailing my US colleagues I always write dates out with the month by name

      Same for me, except when the numerical format is unambiguous (DD>12), in which case I use DD/MM/YYYY just to confuse them.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: International Standards Organization

        Pfft, just use the Julian calendar to confuse everybody, instead

    8. The Dogs Meevonks

      Re: International Standards Organization

      I keep saying that we need an extra language option for software, just for the US. English (simplified)

      1. hitmouse

        Re: International Standards Organization

        There are multiple "language" options for software that are independent of each other:

        1. UI language -> what the menus, dialogs etc are displayed in

        2. locale -> basis for units such as dates, temperatures, weights and measures

        3. doc language -> for instance a word processor can display, edit and proof text from dozens of languages in a single document, although you might need to download add-ons for specific tasks such as Finnish hyphenation.

        Problems (usually worst in Anglophone countries, but officially multi-lingual places like Canada and Switzerland have their own issues)

        1. (not as bad as before) Manufacturers distribute computers with US English settings that are never reconfigured by the user or IT department to meet local expectations. Consequently every bit of software subsequently installed reads the system default and matches settings.

        2. Vendors confusingly conflate the different language settings, often using the locale names (e.g. English (US), English (New Zealand), French (France), German (Switzerland) ) in place of language names.

        3. Browsers download as US English and ignore the system settings. Each browser has its own complement of language and locale settings to cover date display, spell-checking etc.

        4. Online software is generally worse at handling this than desktop software. For instance Microsoft 365 seems to have US date formats hard-coded all over SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams etc so that any string 01/02/03 could be a dd/mm/yy or mm/dd/yy depending on the browser you open it in or indeed if you open a document in a desktop app rather than online. Google. Apple, Facebook and Amazon have similar problems across their platforms and services. Websites also perform weird redirects based on language to subdomains in different locales.

        5. Most of the developers (even in open-source land) are in the US and cannot be bothered fixing bugs to do with non-US issues. There are bugs in Chromium relating to such stuff that go back over a decade, and are constantly merged and deferred.

    9. Down not across

      Re: International Standards Organization

      When emailing my US colleagues I always write dates out with the month by name.

      I use ISO format. I know that most of the time the merkin colleagues will misunderstand it, but that's their problem. Just like they always assume time is in one of their timezones. Some are slowly learnning about time. With date, its much rarer.

    10. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      International Organization for Standardization

      Yeah, it's fixed. Don't forget to email corrections@theregister.com if you spot anything wrong.

      C.

      1. Number6

        Re: International Organization for Standardization

        Good address! Does someone (the Moderatrix?) stand there flogging the guilty party until they fix the mistake?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Gimp

          Re: International Organization for Standardization

          The moderatrix left for pastures new many years ago. Standards (international or otherwise) have been slipping ever since.

          The moderatrix ---------------->

    11. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: International Standards Organization

      "French"

      Isn't it time for the ISO to rule on languages and put the final nail in the coffin of archaic minority languages and acknowledge the global acceptance of English. It may not be number 1 as the global first language (yet) but it certainly is for the combined figure for first and second languages. While they're at it perhaps they could give some spelling advice to Americans.

      As for dates: think of the sort order. yyyymmdd is so much easier to deal with. Think of the environment: how many gigawatts are wasted by computers converting dates to yyyymmdd to sort and then back to suit local preferences?

      And shouldn't we use yyyyymmdd to save our descendants from a recurrence of "the millennium problem" at the end of 9999?

      1. Stork Silver badge

        Re: International Standards Organization

        As my father-in-law says, the most spoken language in the World is bad English.

        The problem with English is that even with the huge number of words (Anglo-Saxon for the animal in the field, French when cooked) it is not terribly good at expressing a number of things. "Hygge" I think was never really understood, and try "saudade" from Portuguese.

        1. hitmouse

          Re: International Standards Organization

          The English language strategy is usually to borrow the foreign word, otherwise there is no special need to have a single word to express every concept. Some languages will have single words, others will have compound expressions and others use phrases, e.g. English "ninety" vs the French "four times twenty plus ten".

          A phrase translation is more than adequate. That's why I get peevish about articles on "words that can't be translated into English" which then proceed to translate all the foreign words into English. The article title should be "words that have no single-word equivalents in English".

  2. tip pc Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Liberty at stake because of stupid mistakes

    Our liberty is at stake because those that should know better make stupid mistakes that are then reinforced by a system that decides to hide mistakes rather than self discover them before taking action to disrupt peoples freedoms.

    I'd like to see all agencies, companies etc, government public or private, annually disclose all data that they processed on people to those people.

    I'm sure we all would be surprised and alarmed at the amount of data collected on us & the reasons for processing that data and will all want stronger controls.

    Its this work going on in the background behind our backs that is the most dangerous as we individually have no oversight or ability to correct mistakes, often no ability ever to correct mistakes.

  3. steviebuk Silver badge

    Another reason an IP

    Address shouldn't be used as evidence. Like the old story of a IP being on a list of movie or music pirates. That IP address turned out to be a printer.

    And with the ability to break into anyone's home wifi, you could easily set anyone up. "It came from their IP address, so must be someone in that property and couldn't possibly be the person sat outside in their car with a big aerial on the roof"

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Another reason an IP

      Yes, time to switch to IPv6 and fixed prefixes and addresses for everybody, so good-bye to "plausible deniability" for movie and music pirates... like it or not, IP addresses are and will be used - of course as long as they change who had which IP must be carefully checked.

      Anyway in most contracts - at least here - the users accept full responsibility for what their networks are used for - and it was the same before with telephone lines too. If you have lame security you may not be able to use it as an excuse for illegal uses of your connection.

      To get the VoIP credentials for my line to use my own devices instead of the ISP-supplied router, I had to specifically sign and accept responsibility for any illegal access to my line.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: Anyway in most contracts - at least here - the users accept full responsibility

        I call that an unenforcable contract clause.

        Given that many domestic routers are controlled by the ISP not the service user(s), and the frequent discovery of router security holes, as well as the ability to discover, connect to and compromise a router from outside a service user's property, there's no way a user could provably be liable for what happens at their router.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Anyway in most contracts - at least here - the users accept full responsibility

          It's already been enforced, don't worry. You'll need to prove you've been hacked - the fact a device could be hacked is not enough. If your car kills someone, you'll need to prove it was stolen, otherwise you're in trouble. The fact a car can be stolen, and cars are routinely stolen, is not enough.

          It's like the excuses of people posting something very wrong on Twitter and then claiming their account was hacked.

          Internet is not a place where you can do anything without any risk to be identified and persecuted....

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

            Re: Anyway in most contracts - at least here - the users accept full responsibility

            Just because it has been enforced doesn't make it right.

            And in your example the prosecution has to prove it was me driving my car, and not someone else. Burden of proof is on the prosectution, not the defendant. At least in this decreasingly civilised part of the world. For now.

            Yes, the cops will give me a hard time and I'll have to provide a strong alibi or evidence that I wasn't involved, but it's still on the prosecution to prove I was driving.

            But all this is deviating from the point that an IP address alone should never be considered reliable evidence of someone's involvement or culpability.

            1. LDS Silver badge

              Re: Anyway in most contracts - at least here - the users accept full responsibility

              As the owner of the car you're in most legislation responsible for what the car is used - and it's up to the owner to demonstrate the car was used by someone else. "Ownership" usually implies responsibilities as well.

              The burden of proof is on the prosecution, but laws also assign specific and implied responsibilities in many situations - and it's up to the defendant to demonstrate someone else was actually responsible. Think about someone who sign a balance - if it is found false, you're responsible unless you can prove someone deceived you and gave you false numbers.

              1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

                Re: Anyway in most contracts - at least here - the users accept full responsibility

                I think you are mixing up criminal, administrative and contract liability.

                Yes, contracts may mean that you are financially liable for many things, including the responsibility to pay your ISP bill even if your router was hacked.

                However, in criminal cases, the responsibility is with the prosecution to prove it was you. Often that is not an issue because the person does not deny they were the one performing the act. However, if you claim your car was stolen or your WiFi was hacked, you do not have to prove it - the prosecution have to prove that it was you. Of course, in practice, they have to prove it to the satisfaction of the jury, and the jury may have a tendency to believe the prosecution unless you expand on why they are mistaken.

                Administratively the line is blurred. For example, if a speed camera catches your car, the registered keeper has to provide the name of the person driving, or some other explanation, or else they will be held responsible. But if the issue ends up going to court, the usual legal burden of proof still applies and the prosecution will do things like produce the picture, explain that this is your usual route and time of going to work, etc to convince the judge/jury it was you.

                In this particular case, of course, the problem is not prosecution - that seems not to have happened - it is all the disruption caused by the actions of the police and prosecutors who didn't clarify the ambiguous information they were given.

              2. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Another reason an IP

        "If you have lame security you may not be able to use it as an excuse for illegal uses of your connection."

        It depends on who "you" refers to. If it's a business then there should be an expectation of reasonable care being taken to defend the network and factors such as size of business, number of data subjects and amount and sensitivity of data should determine what's reasonable. In the case of a private household it's more reasonable to look on the householder as victims in the case of an intruder.

        None of that, of course, excuses sloppy investigation.

      3. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: Another reason an IP

        You do realise a contract can be deemed unlawful. Years ago I bought a digital camera, I think in 2002 or round that time from Kodak on their online store. Someone made a mistake and put the wrong price. I'd checked out and paid and they'd given me a receipt. Now technically a contract. For everyone that ordered one they later rejected as a mistake, saying they had a right under their contract blah blah. It was deemed later, that their contract could infact be illegal and void. They eventually, as a "good will gesture" honoured all the orders.

        The camera ended up being shit but was fascinating having an early digital camera.

        So contracts can be deemed illegal if challenged.

  4. noisy_typist

    11Oct16

    Yes, this format will annoy non English speakers, but a large US firm I used to work for insisted on this format everywhere because it is unambiguous and still reads well. It is also still easy for a machine to read.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: 11Oct16

      > unambiguous

      Not without at least a 4-digit year. So is that the 16th of October 2011? Or the 11th of October 2016??

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: 11Oct16

        And that's assuming the century.

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: 11Oct16

      Is that referring to 2016-10-11, 1916-10-11, 2011-10-16, or 1911-10-16 ???

    3. Dave K Silver badge

      Re: 11Oct16

      As well as the actual ambiguity mentioned above, it also has the flaw of not being sortable either numerically or alphabetically. The ISO standard of YYYY-MM-DD is the best one, and also means that it sorts numerically when applied to filenames.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Bring back VMS Standard Date/Time...

        Actually, DD-MON-YYYY (or YYYY-MON-DD if you want it reversed) is superior - it means that you can look at the date and be certain that the month and year you are looking at is indeed a month and a year.

        Remember, you may know what your data means, but other people aren't you.

        Yes, MON will be different in different countries. Localisation exists - this is not a new problem, and in this case the localisation will be obvious. With MM and DD it isn't always clear.

        Dates are generally stored using a date/time variable, so sorting is only really an issue when you insist on storing your date as a string (or indeed, embedding it in a filename) - in that case yes you should use YYYYMMDD, but that should be an exception.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Bring back VMS Standard Date/Time...

          Three letters: I S O

          1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

            Re: Bring back VMS Standard Date/Time...

            one of the key figures behind the standardisation of Character sets worked for Digital and on the I18N committee.

            His email address was (from memory) I18N@dec.com

            That was a long time ago though.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Bring back VMS Standard Date/Time...

              Thank you @Steve Davis 3 - I did not know that.

              @Dr Syntax: Yelling I S O is missing the point. The ISO standard is great if absolutely everyone follows it. But not everyone does, and you cannot tell if an arbitary date is using it.

              The rest of you: The whole point here is that MM and DD are being confused because unless you *know the date format being used* you cannot distinguish between them for the first 12 days of the month in any arbitrary date string. My point is that MON removes that ambiguity.

              1. MrBanana

                Re: Bring back VMS Standard Date/Time...

                "The whole point here is that MM and DD are being confused because unless you *know the date format being used* you cannot distinguish between them for the first 12 days of the month in any arbitrary date string. My point is that MON removes that ambiguity."

                The ISO format YYYY-MM-DD is unambiguous. As soon as you see that sequence of 4 digits - 2 digits - 2 digits you know exactly what the date is. This is because there is nowhere in the world that has ever used YYYY-DD-MM as a date format.

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
                  Coat

                  Re: Bring back VMS Standard Date/Time...

                  "This is because there is nowhere in the world that has ever used YYYY-DD-MM as a date format."

                  Some USAian will almost certainly think it's just a "proper" date written backwards for some weird reason and read it mm-dd-yyyy :-)

              2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Bring back VMS Standard Date/Time...

                If the ISO standard is being followed anyone who mis-interprets it has only themselves to blame. The significance of ISO dates is that (a) they collate properly and (b) they are natural language independent.

                If I'm writing up genealogical or historical stuff I do, in fact, use something like 15 Sep 2020. It doesn't have to be collated and the whole text is in English so language dependency of the data is a minor issue.

                Dates as data are an entirely different kettle of snakes.

                My database engine of choice is Informix which, internally, stores dates numerically where 1 is the first day of the last year of the 19th century (nobody explained it to them) and you can have that converted in a large number of ways depending on language settings and an environment variable. Spreadsheets should work in similar ways and switch representation on demand.

                But get into historical dates and if you're lucky all you have to worry about are Julian/Gregorian changeovers and hope that the first part of the year it was written out unambiguously, e.g. 1731/2*.

                If you're unlucky you end up with something like: "Friday before the Feast of the Apostles Philip and James in the fifth year of the reign of King Edward" or even worse "the Friday in Pentecost, in the year abovesaid" and hope that some kind editor has done the hard work of translating it all. And if you're really unlucky you find that the kind editor hadn't noticed that a whole year's records were missing so all the dates were mistranslated**.

                * I came across the work of an antiquarian who avoided that - I suspect as a deliberate choice - so he recorded a will dated and proved (i.e. testator died between the dates) apparently several months before he was being sent instructions for his part in the latest episode of the Hundred Years War.

                ** Several hours with an Easter calculator, Googling of saints' days and cal to sort it out.

          2. Danny 2 Silver badge

            Re: Bring back VMS Standard Date/Time...

            @Doctor Syntax

            "Three letters: I S O"

            Nous sommes l'ISO, l'Organisation internationale de normalisation. Okay, the French have rolled with that grosse insult, but they really do call N.A.T.O. O.T.A.N.

        2. Keith Langmead

          Re: Bring back VMS Standard Date/Time...

          So in a sorted list you're fine browsing through the entires in :

          April

          August

          December

          February

          January

          July

          June

          March

          May

          November

          October

          September

          order? Also saying that dates are stored using a date/time variable ignores that that also has conversion issues, unless the system 1) knows which date system the source system used, or 2) the date variable uses the ISO format for consistency, which causes all kinds of issues as anyone who's experienced working with dates in SQL can attest.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Bring back VMS Standard Date/Time...

            No - if you are sorting the date as an ascii string or filename then you do need to use YYYYMMDD - I even said that in my first post!

            And the rest of your point is simply restating the problem: If we do not know what format was used for the dates then if we are using DD and MM we can't tell. My response is that we are using MON then it is immediately obvious which the month is.

            Oh, been processing dates for nigh on 37 years - even before I worked on SQL. Well aware of the problems, thanks.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Bring back VMS Standard Date/Time...

              we are using MON then it is immediately obvious which the month is.

              gen?

              jui?

              dic?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Bring back VMS Standard Date/Time...

                See my comment about localisation. And note again that my point still stands: MON is unambiguously a month, while MM and DD cannot be distinguished for values 1 - 12.

                1. David Woodhead

                  Re: Bring back VMS Standard Date/Time...

                  MON means it's a Monday.

                  I'll get my coat.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 11Oct16

      and then you try to sort the column by date order and it all goes wrong as well.

      Shows, despite the size of the company their thinking can still be stupid. In a large company you'd hope there'd be more people who'd say "hold on that doesn't work", but instead there's just more people who don't want to get involved.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: 11Oct16

        I tend to use the style "11 Oct 2016" but only where I have written the sort routines so the dates sort correctly, otherwise always "2016 10 11"

    5. Mike 125

      Re: 11Oct16

      >11Oct16

      > it is unambiguous

      No, that's biguous.

      How is this so hard.

      1. Vincent Ballard
        Coat

        Re: 11Oct16

        The whole "ambi" is the part which means "both", so surely it's just guous?

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: 11Oct16

          monoguous?

    6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: 11Oct16

      "a large US firm I used to work for insisted on this format everywhere"

      That's because they didn't know any better.

      1. Dave559 Bronze badge

        Re: 11Oct16

        «"a large US firm I used to work for insisted on this format everywhere"

        That's because they didn't know any better.»

        Well, they are a US company. They probably also assume that every one of their customers everywhere in the world has a "zip code" (with a specific format), that there is never any need to specify a country code for phone numbers, that said phone numbers absolutely must be able to be hammered into a nnn-nnn-nnnn format, and that producing product description sheets with measurements in squiggles and ozzes would mean anything to anyone else… (It's particularly disheartening to sometimes see that last for products from Chinese companies in their product illustrations on $well_known_international_shopping_sites, which probably means as little to them as it does to the majority of their worldwide customers.)

        1. Andy Non Silver badge

          Re: 11Oct16

          I once tried to register on a site that was intended for a world-wide audience (with a drop down box for country) but the registration process would not proceed until I entered a valid (US) zip code. Duh.

          1. DS999
            Happy

            Re: 11Oct16

            Many people outside the US know at least one valid US zip code, thanks to the TV show Beverly Hills 90210.

            1. MJI Silver badge

              Valid Zip Code

              Is YKK

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: 11Oct16

          Add to those complaints the assumption that every address belongs to a city and customer address formats are structured that way. There's even less excuse when genealogical S/W is written that way to the exclusion of fields that would be more relevant such as townships in England and townlands in Ireland.

          And while we're on the subject of addresses I'll add the online ordering S/W of a German car parts site that couldn't cope with the notion that some addresses don't have a street number. I don't know if it's coincidence but ever since that mess hit them one particular courier had been unable to deliver anything here.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 11Oct16

            a German car parts site that couldn't cope with the notion that some addresses don't have a street number.

            You're lucky, until a few months ago my address didn't even have a street name. They finally had to roll them out across the village and hamlets because the fibre planning database requires it.

    7. Already?

      Re: 11Oct16

      11Oct16 format would have been fine until the year 2001; before then 11Oct98 was totally unambiguous, and it will be in a dozen or so years time when 11Oct32 is also unambiguous, albeit subject to suspicions of typos. For the current span where day no and year no overlaps, it's not unambigiuous.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: 11Oct16

        11Oct 20 could be this year, 1920, 1820...

    8. TimMaher Bronze badge
      Facepalm

      Re: 11Oct16

      Y2K bug.

      NISM?

    9. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: 11Oct16

      unambiguous and still reads well. It is also still easy for a machine to read.

      And as long as it doesn't need to sort it chronologically.

  5. Elledan Bronze badge
    Mushroom

    Different date formats are a liability and risk to life and health

    We have all seen the joys that converting between metric and Imperial system brings (even if the latter is defined in the former). Wherever such different notations touch and interact there is the potential for confusion, loss of property, injury and life.

    In this case as well, it's probably good that nobody lost their life and things should get sorted out over time as presumably red-faced officials are forced into admitting the mistake. Yet it could have been so much worse.

    Imagine a US-trained nurse, misinterpreting a date given on medical equipment or files in a Spanish or Korean hospital? Decades of learning to interpret date strings as MM/DD/YY(YY) when the rest of the world does not use that format is just begging for serious mistakes to be made. Like with medication or examination intervals.

    Without further context provided, what dates would 01-02-03 or 01-02-2006 be? Former (sadly still common) format could be anything from the first of February, 2003 to the second of January, 2003, to the third of February, 2001. Latter could be the first of February, or the second of January.

    Why do we accept such an obvious liability?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Different date formats are a liability and risk to life and health

      Limey of a diabetic wife -

      Her blood test meter uses mmol/L while the US uses (quick Google search) mg/DL.

      According to Google, we limeys are the odd one out, I thought it would have been the Yanks - but I think the point is that it's not only date format that can be a problem.

      Personally, I think blood sugars should have the same format as tea sugar - tea spoons!

      "How many sugars do you want in your tea/coffee?"

      "10 mmol/Ls please!"

  6. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

    FFS

    The US date format really pisses me off. It makes no sense at all. ISO is probably onto a loser trying to get everyone to do it backwards (though that's how I name many files), but the US should at least use a date format that's internally consistent rather than middle-endian.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: FFS

      How is the ISO format backwards? Or do you think of time in terms of ss:mm:hh ???

      Coarse -> Fine is the only sensible way.

      1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        Re: FFS

        I don't disagree – perhaps I should have said "the other way around". I just mean that almost everyone will think of it as backwards and hence will keep using whichever format they currently use. In informal contexts – e.g., "Let's have a meeting on 23 September" – the day of the month is often most important, and anything following is probably less relevant. As I noted, I do use ISO 8601 in file naming, even if only for the simple fact that sorting alphabetically then also sorts by date. But I will probably still speak things the other way around. I do, however, maintain that the US way of doing it is stupid and confusing.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: FFS

          Nevertheless I doubt anyone thinks that 12345 is a larger number than 54321. Least significant number on the right is fairly normal.

      2. Mike 125

        Re: FFS

        England, London, Downing Street 10, The Blustering Blonde Balderdasher

        "Hear, hear!"

        And I agree.

        1. alain williams Silver badge

          Re: FFS

          My domain name was, originally, uk.co.phcomp ... until the UK flipped round to the USA way of putting the country code at the end: phcomp.co.uk -- This was often done automatically but caused confusion with ac.uk (UK academic) for some reason that I have forgotten.

          1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

            Re: FFS

            I remember following the Usenet (or was it a mailing list?) discussion of the early domain naming syntax in the 1980's (and a LOT of discussion about how it would work with email addressing, including lots of discussion before it was agreed that email to a.b.com would not need to actually flow to "com" then to "b.com" then to "a.b.com") and I do not remember a time when it had the most significant part of the domain first. Was that format a UK or JANET thing or was there really a time when a draft Internet RFC had that format?

            1. alain williams Silver badge

              Re: FFS

              Yes: country code first was a JANET thing.

            2. Down not across

              Re: FFS

              Discussion about flow is quite understandable given many of us used UUCP and bang paths.

        2. Phones Sheridan

          Re: FFS

          Reminds me of when I was at uni in the early circa 1990, my email address was jsmith123@uk.ac.salford which to me made perfect sense, as email addresses back then tended to start with the country first, then narrow down at each step. Then late 90s a perfectly working system was scrapped, everything was up-ended and email addresses were reversed so that now it would be jsmith123@salford.ac.uk

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: FFS

            "jsmith123@uk.ac.salford"

            Shouldn't that have been jsmith123@uk!ac!salford ?

            1. alain williams Silver badge

              Re: FFS

              No: the ! told which was the next machine to send email to via UUCP, the final part was the username. For this to work you needed to know which machines talked to which other machines. At one point I had an A3 sheet above my desk with a world map, 100 odd machine names & lines connecting them.

              So your routing path would have looked like: machine1!machine2!jsmith123 ... this is the email address that you gave to the mail or mailx program.

              1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

                Re: FFS

                this is the email address that you gave to the mail or mailx program

                Yes. And the email address you gave to other people was something like {ucbvax,a-few-other-hosts}!decwrl!marvin!cobb, where you chose a list of well known, well-connected systems as the starting point because other users would know how to reach at least one of those from their own host and those hosts knew how to reach your external gateway (decwrl in this example).

          2. Dave559 Bronze badge

            Re: jsmith123@uk.ac.salford

            "jsmith123@uk.ac.salford" was a JANET thing, possibly/probably related to one of the X.something communications standards that I can't be bothered trying to search for just now (OK, I lie: searching Wikipedia for "JANET email address" does, as it so often does, The Right Thing: JANET NRS)

            I also had an email address at around the same time, and I dimly remember that email to some friends in some places went through in "internet standard" format (TLD last) just fine, but for some other places, you could see in the mail headers the mail going through a relay somewhere that flipped the addresses back and forth to the previous JANET format as necessary.

            Bang paths, as in (not quite) jsmith123@uk!ac!salford were something different: they were more of a routing guide for UUCP showing which network nodes a message had to pass through to reach its destination (I only recall seeing them in some people's usenet postings…).

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: jsmith123@uk.ac.salford

              I remember getting an email from someone at Imperial College several years ago.

              I thought it was the best ever domain.

              Jsmith123@ic.ac.uk

              Don’t know if it’s still the same.

              1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
                Boffin

                Re: jsmith123@uk.ac.salford

                The Librarian at Imperial College was once referred to as Ook@ic.ac.uk in homage to the Librarian at Unseen University on Discworld. Thanks Pterry.

        3. JetSetJim Silver badge

          Re: FFS

          Where would the post code go? Technically, it identifies your house as one of a small set (usually a dozen or so, but I've seen up to 30 on the same post code - one entire side of a street).

          From an ordering perspective, it would then be:

          Eng(er)land, London, SW1A 2AA, Downing St, 10, The BBB

          1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

            Re: FFS

            If we're going to use a sensible coarse->fine order for dates and addresses, we should go the whole hog and use last->first for personal names.

            Why does this make me think of RPN?

            1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

              Re: FFS

              Because RPN is logical and easy to learn!

              And HP buttons feel way nicer :-)

              Mods: the "slide rule" icon seems to have been misplaced. Please rectify.

      3. Dave559 Bronze badge

        Re: FFS

        "How is the ISO format backwards? Or do you think of time in terms of ss:mm:hh ???

        Coarse -> Fine is the only sensible way."

        Well, right now, where I am, it's just gone twenty-five past twelve, and is nearly half twelve (although that latter can also be rather misleading, depending on which language you are speaking!).

        But, yes, that's everyday informal speech, where I might also (but very rarely do) say that it's September the 15th, rather than the 15th of September, so that's perfectly fine and not ambiguous.

        In written form, however, ISO format or DD/MM/YYYY all the way.

        (It makes me wonder just why the USA puts so much bizarre emphasis on putting the month first. I mean, it's not unusual for any of us, in an insufficiently caffeinated state, to forget what date of the month or day of the week it is, and so need to check, but needing a reminder of what month it is first? You've either had a very long sleep, or are a time traveller (in either case, year might still be a good place to start.))

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sorting

      ISO format also works best when you want to sort (textually) in date order (e.g. when a date is added to / used as a filename).

    3. Paul Shirley

      Re: FFS

      There are no other very commonly used 'backwards' humanly readable date formats, multiple forward formats. yyyymmdd being the 'most backward' format make it ideal to replace them all, it's logically simple with no room for ambiguity and little risk of confusion with rare alternatives.

    4. KittenHuffer Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: FFS

      It makes perfect sense to the Merkins! Because that HAVE to do everything different to the country that spawned them! The UK does DD/MM so the Merkins have to do MM/DD!

      Please for an orderly queue to 'down' my post --------------------->

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: FFS

        Down this --------------------------------->

    5. big_D Silver badge

      Re: FFS

      ISO format also makes sorting of written dates (as opposed to date/time variables) easier.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I have to admit

    As a programmer working with international companies, I have had no end of grief getting data to integrate only to find that, not only there are dates in the US format, but not all dates are in the same format because the file has contributions from a group of people.

    That is a can of worms I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

    1. Andy Non Silver badge

      Re: I have to admit

      I can relate to that. In the very early days of visual studio, the inbuilt date conversion functions had a habit of borking dates with data sent from multiple countries in different formats. So I ended up writing my own functions to handle all date conversions - at least their conversions were consistent without the odd rogue US date format appearing and mucking things up. Similar problems with the opposite use of decimal points and commas in numbers formatted as strings between European countries.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: I have to admit

        In the very early days of visual studio, the inbuilt date conversion functions had a habit of borking dates

        Aaargh! I'd forgotten about that. It wasn't just Visual Studio. The MS run-time library had a function (cdate IIRC) that converted strings to dates. But it ignored the locale and based the conversion on a best-guess - if the leading digits were between 1 and 12, it assumed a US date, otherwise a European date, so "12-01-2000" was the beginning of December, but "13-01-2000" was mid-January.

        VB6 silently used this function if you passed a variant or string where a date parameter was expected. Given the indiscipline of VB6 programmers, and the lack of decent analysis tools, it was impossible to eradicate from the code base. In the end I had to create something that patched the function when the run-time was in memory. Ugh!

        1. Andy Non Silver badge

          Re: I have to admit

          Yes! That's the one. It completely ignored the locale settings (unbeknown to me at the time) and did its own thing. Caused me some grief. The code seemed to be working fine converting date strings as though they were in UK date format when I wrote it until the beginning of the following month when it decided that the date strings were all in US date format.

          1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

            Right

            So, now that I am reassured that I'm far from the only one having had to deal with this specific bunch of vipers, could someone please explain to me why is it that we are in the 3rd millennium, using object-oriented 4G or even 5G languages, and we are still writing dates as strings ?

            Why is it that there is no language today (caveat : that I know of) that treats a date as an object with three parameters and the format it is shown in depends on the OS ?

            Is it really that hard ?

            (Yes, of course it is, because legacy - but dammit, couldn't we at least get a choice ?)

            1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

              Re: Right

              Most languages store dates as objects. The string problem arises when they have to interact with humans.

              1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

                I find that difficult to believe. If a programming language does not have a proper date object, then I seriously doubt that dates are stored as anything but a string.

                Because if dates were somehow magically stored as objects, then writing to a csv file would not have so many different formats.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "European date format"

    Hey, less of the attempted minimising, yankee-boy! It's certainly not only Europe that writes or quotes dates in logical hierarchical order.

    Don't try to pretend that these are two competing date standards, because they aren't. The whole world uses the logical DD/MM/YYYY format, not only Europe (which is not the the same as EU, use EUR if you really must), with greater or lesser use of ISO 8601 (YYYY-MM-DD) in officialese (and sometimes in personal usage).

    The only country that ever thought that a goatse-like "middle first" date format was a good idea is the USA. The rest of the world recoils in horror, and we roll our collective eyes, and reach for the mind bleach.

    Note that Date format by country shows the above (date formats in use, not goatse!), there is only one country in MDY red (they're the bad guys, yeah, you taught us that?) and everyone else uses DMY and/or ISO 8601.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    clarification!

    FFS. this is just basic failure to communicate. Given the details came from a US org I would be wary with a date stamp anyway....and I would seek clarification in the first instance as to whether they meant A or B. this is easy. not rocket science. this can be done without trying to get a whole country and population mindset to change their ways.

  10. MatthewSt Bronze badge

    Examples

    I got asked on a phone system the other day to enter my date of birth in an 8 digit format, and the rather helpful example said "so if it's January 1st 1975 press 01011975"

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just dates get confused

    I was in a court case where the prosecution had an email printout that proved person A had emailed person B at one o'clock in the morning. Neither prosecution nor defence had twigged that the time in question on the email was EDT (America) not BST (UK).

    1. Sykowasp

      Re: Not just dates get confused

      I hope that was discovered during the court case, not after! Was it the central piece of evidence?

      Date formats, timezones and other date miscellany are the bane of programmers the world over.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Not just dates get confused

        timezones and other date miscellany are the bane of programmers the world over.

        Do everything in UTC, only convert for display by using standard functions.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Not just dates get confused

          But probably best to explain it in court as GMT otherwise you'll just have another layer of incomprehension to deal with: "UTC - whever heard of that?".

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Not just dates get confused

            Sadly lots of Americans think GMT means "UK time", and have no concept of BST (GMT+1) as daylight saving time. At least UTC makes them ask "WTF?".

            1. Dave559 Bronze badge

              Re: Not just dates get confused

              «Sadly lots of Americans think GMT means "UK time", and have no concept of BST (GMT+1) as daylight saving time.»

              Sadly there are also quite a few people in the UK who don't distinguish that specific and necessary difference when they really need to as well, and then wonder why their international videoconference calls are an hour out, and there's either nobody at the other end, or they've missed it…

      2. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: Not just dates get confused

        Don't forget Summer/Daylight Savings inconsistencies around the globe. Blech

      3. Drew Scriver Silver badge

        Re: Not just dates get confused

        Since I grew up in Europe the 24H system is second nature to me.

        After I moved to the USA I figured it was just my European background that caused me to have a hard time with the 12H-system. Until...

        1) A colleague showed up for work on Monday, although I thought he was supposed to have flown out to our European office the previous day. "Yes, but I got to the airport at night instead of in the morning."

        2) A key server went down in the middle of the day. Somebody had confused am and pm when they created the cron-job.

        Of course, the usual complaint was that the 24H-system is just "too hard". So far I've resisted the urge to tell them that my six-year-old niece knows that her favorite TV-show starts at 18 hours...

        1. Andy Non Silver badge

          Re: Not just dates get confused

          My father here in the UK once got a letter with a hospital appointment for 12:15 am. On a hunch, I phoned the hospital and no they didn't expect him to turn up at midnight, it should have read 12:15 pm.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not just dates get confused

            Wife had afternoon hospital appointment, so we booked a taxi for 2pm.

            Was waken up by the taxi driver calling at 2am.... I explained that we had booked it for 2pm, 2 o'clock in the afternoon - 14 hundred hours.

            He was very apologetic, not the first time it had happened. My thought is that if you need to go to hospital at 2am, you'll probably need an ambulance!

          2. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Not just dates get confused

            I find 12:00 to be most problematic. With no other frame of reference I'd it noon or midnight? Spent half a day coding a function to display lecture times absolutely unambiguously because of things like that.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Not just dates get confused

              It's one reason that flights never leave at midnight or midday, but are always timetabled as 00:01, 12:01, 23:59, etc.

              1. Drew Scriver Silver badge

                Re: Not just dates get confused

                Sure, but in the 24H system 00:00 is always midnight - the start of a new day.

            2. Drew Scriver Silver badge

              Re: Not just dates get confused

              Not quite sure how this is confusing:

              23:58

              23:59

              00:00

              00:01

              00:02

              ...

              11:58

              11:59

              12:00

              12:01

              12:02

              ...

              12:58

              12:59

              13:00

              13:01

              13:02

    2. druck Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Not just dates get confused

      I knew someone in New Zealand that received a legal nasty gram about downloading illicit content from their dynamic IP address at a particular time. Daylight savings time differences between

      NZ and UK mean between April and September NZ is 11 hours ahead and September to April it's 13 hours ahead of the UK. After much investigation we worked out someone got 11 hours ahead mixed up with 11 hours behind, which is probably Hawaii. It took sometime for them to accept this though.

    3. Been there, done that, it never ends
      WTF?

      Re: Not just dates get confused

      Years ago, running the web infrastructure for a small company, I was asked to go through the web logs looking for entries requesting certain URLs in a specified date and time range. I was told the request was from a national law enforcement organization and not much else. I kept my logs in UTC as I was not going to deal with time changes twice a year screwing up the entries.

      My first question was what time zone the specified time range was in. It took several days to get that clarified so I could search appropriately.

  12. TRT Silver badge

    To be perfectly frank...

    They shouldn't be using Excel for handling genomic datasets to begin with. I've had to deal with these many million line datasets after they've been through the Excel mangle and it isn't a pretty sight. Not only were the names of a select portion of genes mushed into dates, the scientist had copied and pasted the standard deviation column into the right column but shifted down by 5 rows replicating a whole set of values, managed to include zero values in the mean calculation (failed reads from the plate reader), and copied and pasted a subset of other values into the wrong block.

    It's only when I instead on having their raw data direct from the machine as well as their Excel summary that these errors were picked up - the paper was written, checked, double checked, triple checked, reviewed, checked again and was about to be published when the "web accessible" version of their dataset was asked of from me. It was pure bloody mindedness on my part that I decided to redo all the descriptive statistics on the fly instead of using stored values that meant I picked this up. Excel is a pile of spread sheet for most tasks, and I just don't get why people seem to like it so much and force it to do tasks that there are far, far better ways of doing. I mean... arranging shift patterns FFS - use a calendar! Lists of students and fees paid shared between administrators - use a database! Spreadsheets are good for a quick one off rough guess at something involving numbers. If you have to repeat something, write a program to do it, store it in a database, anything that means a slip of the mouse doesn't have the capability to introduce a fatal error.

  13. MJI Silver badge

    Our licence software is slightly broken

    So we relicence the Yanks to

    10/10/2020 or 11/11/2020 and so on.

    Needs to be 100% compatible with the proper software so we can use it in our office.

    I did insist on YYYY-MM-DD for their acounts link.

    But inches - aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    They get stored by an algorythm converting to nearest mm and back again, IN THE FIELD EDIT.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Our licence software is slightly broken

      It's ages since I looked at an RS catalogue but they insisted on giving dimensions for components based on converting a 1/10th inch grid to metric. Spaces between pin positions on ICs being specified down to the diameter of a pollen grain? Really?

  14. mark4155

    Dates Aside....

    The Spanish Police, especially the Guardia Civil (Civil by name but usually not by nature) must have frightened the living daylights out of the innocent people. The suspicion and probably rumours or rumors if you prefer. Their life will have been made a complete misery. Money is little comfort when faced with such an injustice.

  15. Cssmonaut

    How about you use the date format of the person you're sending it to?

    I dunno, maybe I'm just thinking how nice it would be, to have some consideration for the recipient...and the avoidance of doubt, natch.

  16. thames

    UCSD P-System

    The standard date format for the UCSD P-System operating system was DD-MMM-YY, where "MMM" was the date spelled out as a three letter abreviation (e.g. "Oct"). They evidently did this because the numerical date format ambiguity problem was evident even then.

  17. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Half Eight

    (Apologies if you've read this anecdote here before)

    My yank boss agreed to take us from the Netherlands to Scotland for the MS Exchange course. He asked me to pick him up at half eight, but was furious when I picked him up at half eight because he'd been waiting for an hour.

    In Dutch half eight means 7:30am/pm. He assumed that was all of Europe. In the UK half eight is always 8:30.

    He was also angry when I drove him to the Scottish Claymores shop. He assumed it was a shop that sold swords, it was a shop that sold merchandise for the Edinburgh "American Football" team. Then he got angrier when I couldn't drive him to a place that sold swords. We're kind of banned from buying swords since 1745.

    In retrospect I don't think he liked me. He was a huge, rotund fellow who boasted his size meant he could maintain a constant internal temperature, but he couldn't maintain his temper.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A date standard that fits perfectly on an 80 column terminal

    This fits perfectly on an 80 column terminal (at least for now*)

    /bin/date -u +"%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%S.%N%::z/%G-W%V-%u/%Y-%j/%s/%a_%p_%Z"

    *80 column issue when extra characters(s) gets added, like from a much later/earlier date

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A date standard that fits perfectly on an 80 column terminal

      These can also sorted based on Left to Right between time frames that have the same number of characters in all corresponding sections, and have all positive numbers.

  19. mego

    "Police scoured mobile devices and took away a computer that the family eventually recovered through the help of an attorney."

    See, here's the part that always boils my... urine. If the family were found innocent it should have been automatically returned. Why did they have to have the added cost of an attorney?

  20. aqk
    Headmaster

    OK- it's not Kill-omitter

    As a Canadian, I would like the Americans, and their British lackeys, to stop mispronouncing the word for KM. as Kill-Ommiter, as though it's some sort of speedometer or tachometer.

    The word is pronounced KILOMETRE as we were taught in Canadian schools so many decades ago. And most Canadians pronounce it correctly.

    Recently I even heard news announcers on FRANCE24 pronounce it incorrectly! Migod, the French INVENTED the Kilometre!

  21. Ceiling Cat

    Got used to using YYYY-MM-DD, AKA ISO 8601 date format back when I was part of several concert bootleg trading groups. Makes it so much easier to properly sort stuff, and leaves no room for stupid mistakes like the one made by the investigators in this article.

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