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The US has banned all passengers travelling from eight Muslim-majority countries from bringing carry-on devices larger than a smartphone. This includes laptops, tablets, e-readers, and portable gaming devices.
Passengers who wish to travel with their electronics would need to put them in their checked baggage — putting the devices at risk of theft or even snooping from the US government.
Selected airports in Jordan , Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have been affected. None of these countries were affected by Trump’s proposed travel ban.
According to The Verge, no rationale was given for the ban. Neither the US Transportation Security Administration nor the Department of Homeland Security would admit if the ban was linked to an ongoing terrorist investigation.
“Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items,” reads a DHS press release according to The Verge.
Before the ban, passengers were required to switch on their laptops before boarding the plane to prove it was not an explosive. There has been no word on why this measure no longer suffices.
The ban has worried human rights lawyers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and parents of young children, according to Mashable.
A major concern is the privacy of personal data. US officials don’t need a warrant to search baggage, and Mashable says that passengers have been asked to hand over passwords before.
Some believe the motives are economic.
Local US airlines have been growing frustrated with Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways’ subsidies from their governments. Bloomberg writes that airlines blamed the foreigners of stealing American jobs by “flooding the market.”
The airlines have been pushing for landing rights in North America, but in 2010 Canada refused their requests. The UAE wasn’t pleased, evicting Canadian troops from their base in Dubai, and forcing Canadians to apply for an expensive visa to enter.
By banning in-flight use of laptops, prized business class passengers may decide on other airlines. It also makes travel that much more difficult for citizens of the affected Muslim-majority countries.
The UK has since followed suit, enforcing the ban on passengers from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
Featured image: Ozzy Delaney via Flickr (CC 2.0, edited)