BANNED: when gadgets fall foul of the law

BANNED: when gadgets fall foul of the law

Every gadget has its teething troubles. Sometimes it’s a design fault that causes the issues, sometimes it’s because it’s too weird and sometimes it’s because it’s just too damn dangerous. The latest gadgetry to face potential trouble is the iPhone. But it’s not because it’s not good enough. It’s because it’s just too good.


In the UK the government are considering new laws that make it illegal to sell devices that use end-to-end encryption. This means that devices must be able to be read and unlocked by the manufacturer or the government. While it might sound like something from 1984 it stands a good chance of happening in the UK with the proposed Investigatory Powers Bill. The bill states that manufacturers must design in a backdoor so that police and security services may have greater powers to access online messages.

This follows a ruling in the US where Apple were asked to access a seized iPhone. The company stated that any iPhones – including the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 5 – that run iOS 8 or 9 cannot be accessed by a third party as their encryption is so good. So does that mean the iPhone could soon be banned in the UK? It seems unlikely, but we wait with baited breath…

In the meantime we thought it’d be interesting to look at some other gadgets that did actually get banned. Skateboards, amazingly, were banned by lots of local councils in the 1970s after a few kids broke arms and legs riding on the streets. Perhaps this is how skateboarding became known as an outlaw sport. Even today some councils are trying to use Public

Space Protection Orders to ban skateboarding from city streets. And yet there are millions of skateboards getting under feet all across the UK.

Still, at least the skateboard has some purity about it. Unlike the latest gadget craze, the hoverboard. It’s an unholy union between the Segway and the skateboard and – like the Segway itself – is banned from use on public roads and pavements because it is considered in UK law, to be a carriage. It is also illegal to use Segways or hoverboards on the pubic highway as they are motorised and therefore require tax and insurance. So the only place where they can be legally used is on private land… perhaps a good thing.

Other gadgets that have been banned over the years include clackers, the toy that broke wrists in primary schools all over the UK in the seventies. It had two plastic balls attached to one piece of string that the user could hold to make the balls crack against each other like a cheap newton’s cradle on acid. Needless to say the balls occasionally exploded – that was when they weren’t breaking wrists.

Another cracking piece of thoughtful design was a game called lawn darts. Imagine oversized metal darts being flung around your lawn by the kids and you can understand the dangers. After the death of a seven year old and an ensuing campaign from her father the game was banned in 1988.

Among other banned gadgets and toys were:

So, for the moment let’s go back to the iPhone. At least it’s not going to hurt your kids when they play with it.  It’s more likely to be the other way around. And that means investing in gadget insurance to save you a large bill for a new screen or a new phone if it gets lost dropped or dunked…!

A gadget insurance policy from CoverCloud will cost you from just £3.25 per month.

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Posted: 15 March 2016