Tags: tech | border | phone | computer

Border Patrol vs the US Economy

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Wednesday, 29 Apr 2015 08:35 AM Current | Bio | Archive

If you want to attract businesses to your state, you try to make life easy for them — or at least easier than the alternatives. You've seen the TV commercials for Michigan and New York. Economic development authorities from both states trumpet their supposedly business-friendly environments.

Nations do the same thing. Their task is more complex, but the strategy is similar. A nation that wants to prosper has to remove barriers to trade. The Obama administration thinks it can do this with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (As I explained last week, that agreement has little to do with free trade.)

Here's a very basic rule President Obama should apply: Don't treat every business prospect like a suspected terrorist. While you're at it, don't treat your own citizens that way, either. 

Yet this is what happens every time anyone enters the U.S. at any legal border crossing. 

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol regulations allow the government to seize and/or copy the full contents of any electronic device you want to bring into the country. That includes laptop computers, smartphones, dumb phones, memory sticks and cameras. 

They can do this for any reason they wish, without a search warrant, even if you are a red-blooded American. Crossing the border is not a Constitutional right. If you want to enter the country, you do it on their terms or you just stay out. 

Now, if all you have are pictures of a Caribbean beach or Canadian ski resort, this is a minor irritant. It is a major problem if you are a non-American technology expert visiting the U.S. for business purposes. 

Under normal conditions, such folks travel with a laptop containing vast quantities of important information: details on new products, microchip schematics or contract terms. None of it is the U.S. government's business. 

This is a real problem. Some German and Japanese attendees at this year's SXSW Interactive technology conference took extraordinary measures. They brought cheap disposable phones and rented computers to use while they were here. 

This made their trip far less productive, but they would not risk entering our borders with the devices they normally keep handy. 

Multiply this intentional inefficiency by a few million travelers per year. Think of the lost business. Instead of whipping out the iPad to show off their newest gizmos, they have to tell potential American partners, "Let's talk later." 

American business people who travel overseas have to take the same kind of precautions, assuming they want to re-enter the country. All their data are fair game, too. 

None of this helps the U.S. economy, nor does it protect us from terrorist threats. It simply allows politicians and bureaucrats to pretend they are "doing something." 

We have here yet another reason that the global dreams of U.S. technology companies are toast. Our own government is smashing the economy's crown jewels

We may never get them back.

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PatrickWatson
If you want to attract businesses to your state, you try to make life easy for them — or at least easier than the alternatives. You've seen the TV commercials for Michigan and New York. Economic development authorities from both states trumpet their supposedly business-friendly environments.
tech, border, phone, computer
481
2015-35-29
Wednesday, 29 Apr 2015 08:35 AM
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