Always New Mistakes

January 9, 2008

America’s downfall: Hey teachers, leave us laptops alone!

Filed under: Business, Security — Tags: , , , , — Alex Barrera @ 12:58 am

Today I read this article via Slashdot: U.S. courts consider legality of laptop inspections. I’m shocked! Sinceprivacy-is-not-a-crimel.gif 9/11 we’ve seen many changes on border policies, but this one is, in my opinion one of the worst. It’s become increasingly difficult to do business in America. Believe me when I say this with great grief. I love America and coming from a Montessori school, my way of thinking and acting is much more American than European. Nevertheless, making business with or in America has become a nightmare, not only for foreigners, but also for locals.

It’s already close to impossible to get a working visa (H1-B), and even with an academic visa (like myself) you get questioned, fingerprinted and eye scanned. International conferences that used to have Las Vegas or other American cities as residences are beginning to shift their locations to avoid problems with their foreign speakers. Even speakers that come all the way from Europe to help and train the guys from NSA are being deported because of problems at the American border.

And now what? Well, it seems that now you can’t even bring your laptop with you! Don’t get me wrong, I understand that under some circumstances, it’s paramount to confiscate and analyze a hard disk in search of vigilancia.gifevidence. What I don’t get is why I have to give away all my personal information WITHOUT any warrant. I’m not a law expert, but from what I understand, if you want to confiscate a computer in someone’s house you need to seek a warrant first. That means that you’ll have to hand some evidence to a judge first and then you’ll be able to take the hard disk. What this court proposes is that while you have your laptop at home you are protected by the law, but the moment you try to travel with your computer they can bypass the law and search your hard disk. Well, I think that’s just wrong, very wrong. Not only because I don’t have a right for privacy, but because if I’m on a business trip I’ll loose my laptop and all my business data! So again, this attitude just keeps non American business people from traveling to the US. Considering that America is heading to a major recession and that the dollar is so weak against the Euro, I don’t think that’s the best strategy.

Anyhow, I do understand the reasons behind many of the new bills being approved, but I truly think there are better ways to deal with this. Again, this is just my humble opinion. I would love to hear what Americans thinks about these issues. Any takers?

UPDATE: I just read this post from TechCrunch which shows the dramatic trend US tech companies are taking due to the working visa cap and other problems with foreign workers. It’s clear that even US companies are looking outside US for new places in which they might continue growing. And I wonder, isn’t the working visa cap suppose to create more jobs for US citizens? Sadly, numbers tell a different story.

UPDATE2: New indicators of current state of matters in the US: “From 1994 to 2004, U.S. firms increased the number of people they employed in R&D jobs outside the United States by 76 % and employment within the United States by 31 %, while U.S. subsidiaries of foreign firms increased their U.S. R&D employment by 18 %.



  1. I’m an American. I agree with everything you said but I don’t think you’ve taken it far enough! There as an absolute war on individualism and privacy going on right now in the USA. I remember exactly the first time I ever felt a real fear of the authorities and modified my behavior in order to seem “less suspicious” even though I was doing nothing wrong. It happened 2 years ago in an airport taking a domstic flight.

    I’ve felt that and acted this way one other time in my life. Visiting east Berlin before the fall of the wall.

    But don’t think its just airports. Things have degraded so far that local police can sieze your computers, cars, cash, whatever simply because of the suspicion of drug possession or dealing. You WILL NOT get these things back if you are not charged or later proven innocent. The police auction these things off to fund themselves after searching them for evidence of ANY crime, related or unrelated to the arrest.

    The war on drugs, the war on terror.. what they mean is the war ON YOU.

    Comment by noonespecial — January 9, 2008 @ 5:46 am

  2. […] — Elad @ 9:20 am There’s growing talk about how America is becoming a police state. Here’s just one little example that I ran into […]

    Pingback by America, Corporations and the Police State « Philosophical Musings — January 9, 2008 @ 10:20 am

  3. First of all, thanks for the comment @1, much appreciated. There is indeed a war on privacy that has been going on for some years now. What really strikes me is that people don’t seem to care until something ugly happens to them.

    Even in Europe we are seeing weird bills being approve like in Germany and more recently in UK about being prosecuted if you distribute software that might be used for dubious activities. As far as I know, you’ll be prosecuted in UK if you don’t hand in your password!

    What is sad like you point out, is that you have to modify your behavior to look “less suspicious”. That’s amazing! What’s funny is that humans are so subjective, we are very inefficient in identifying suspects. For example, if you have a big beard and have a nice tan, you’ll be stopped at the security check for sure. And now they’ve installed personal that is “able” to identify “stressed” people? It’s going to be funny how that works out.

    I didn’t want to make this post about a foreigns point of view on the matter so I’m really glad you gave your point of view. Specially about it not being an airport problem anymore, but a problem that affects US residents at large.

    @Elad, thanks for the pingback. Great video! Starbucks police? that was funny!

    Comment by Alex Barrera — January 9, 2008 @ 11:12 am

  4. I like beans

    Comment by Ervin Sholpnick — January 9, 2008 @ 8:09 pm

  5. I’m sure Canada will be happy to accept super-smart people if the U.S. doesn’t want them. It would a way for us to reverse the brain-drain that takes our best and brightest.

    Comment by buckpost — January 11, 2008 @ 6:54 pm

  6. I’m sure Canada will start to see an exodus of talented people in the next few years. Some companies are starting to move their R&D centers to Canada. For example, Microsoft is starting to move their people from Seattle to some other centers in Canada. I suppose that the US either starts reacting or this would be a common practice in the next years. I haven’t been to Canada (yet, as I was planing a trip to Vancouver) so you probably know more than me about this, but you guys should start building good tech hubs to try and keep all that brain power (hopefully you can tell me that there are some already!).

    Comment by Alex Barrera — January 12, 2008 @ 4:20 am

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