My iPod Will Not Crash Your Airplane flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0) 

Last week, I was getting annoyed with white Americans worrying over their smartphones potentially getting searched or confiscated at US airports. Poor them. Because they’re so likely to get searched, and as a result of that search to get surveilled. I shrug. I don’t think anyone needs my smartphone or laptop to surveil me. I’m pretty sure it’s easier to do than that :)

Today was supposed be a good day, a day of hope. Kate Bowles and I wrote a post for Digital Pedagogy Lab talking about our upcoming track in the UMW institute in August. George Station invented a new hashtag for what Kate and I do: #netwoke – love it! A play on “network” and “woke”

This morning, a friend shared with me the news that the US would ban passengers taking direct flights to the US from several Muslim countries, including Egypt, from taking laptops or tablets in hand luggage. My first reaction was, “that’s silly, most people go to the US by transiting in Europe anyway”. My second reaction was, “could someone possibly put their laptop in the checked baggage?” And all my Arab friends on Facebook said that devices get stolen from checked baggage, even at JFK. They also said that if the laptop didn’t get stolen, it would probably get battered along the way (I’m sure there is a way around that).

I shrugged. First, because I had no plans to go to the US until August, and you never know what new law will come before then. And second, because I usually travel with smartphone and iPads, not my laptop. Most of my stuff is on the cloud somewhere (on a US server, but what the heck).

Next, though, I found out that the UK will follow suit and include a different set of countries and an even stricter ban that includes larger smartphones. I have a keynote in London in two weeks inshallah. I think I need at least my phone! I took out the tape measure and checked the size of my smartphone. Whew. I had never measured my phone before.

The theory that this move is trade motivated not security motivated is confusing. Both arguments are problematic, and neither explains the UK ban. Laptops in checked baggage don’t improve security, and if the move is intended for trade reasons, too many carriers amd consumers get harmed along the way, while many other carriers don’t get affected. The UK case particularly harms UK carriers as well.

Honestly, I’m not angry. I’m not even completely shocked. I’m sad and disappointed. But I’m quite lucky. Wherever I plan to travel this year, I know that, inshallah, I’ve got friends who could #LendMeALaptop

At this point, I’m grateful for these things:

  1. I’ve taught myself to keep my kid busy without necessarily using electronic devices. For a 5 hour flight, I think it’s doable. For a longer trip to the US, it seems trickier, but oh well. It’s been done before they invented electronic devices!
  2. Most of my stuff is on the cloud because with my weak back and having a young child, it’s really difficult to travel with a laptop anyway
  3. I’ve got friends where I’m going who can #LendMeALaptop
  4. It could be worse. Really it can. And it might get worse still. But it isn’t worse yet.

How’s the news of these new bans affecting you? Tell us in the comments – or be thankful they aren’t affecting you!

“My iPod Will Not Crash Your Airplane” flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using (CC0)

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