One of the most inconvenient and least helpful things about traveling is the “security” and regional issues you encounter. Credit cards block you from using your card (even if you warned them up front), accounts are blocks because of “suspicious activity,” and a host of other annoyances. Want to watch Netflix or listen to Songza? Sorry, your region is not supported.

What is so frustrating about this is that these issues have nothing to do with protecting you or your security at all. Credit cards are just trying to protect themselves. U.S. law makes you liable for only $50 in fraudulent charges. The credit card companies want you to think they are protecting you from bad guys, but really they are the ones that bear the brunt of any fraudulent activity (and they usually just stiff the merchants in the end). They use computer algorithms that determine when your activity is outside your normal behavior—typically a trip abroad qualifies for most people, or even using your card 50 miles away from home since most people just don’t travel that much—and will place a fraud hold when something “suspicious” happens. Calling in before hand puts a note into your account that you will be traveling, though the automated systems can’t read that so it does no good. Even large purchases (like when I purchased my Mac laptop) will trigger a hold.

There are better ways for credit card companies to provide real security, but it is usually expensive for them to do so and they often do not want to admit there is a problem in the first place. Consumers might become nervous if they knew just how insecure the entire credit card system in America was. Europe has implemented a “chip and pin” system is far more secure and avoids the need for the antiquated approach U.S. credit card companies use. Arriving in Bangkok at 2am and your card can’t be used? Good luck on finding phone where you can call your credit card companies to get the card working again.

Netflix, Songza, YouTube, Apple, and so on have regional limitations to using their systems and accessing materials on them. Big record labels and movie studios want to make sure they get the proper fees for the works they hold the copyright to. They don’t have fee arrangements in places like Thailand or Indonesia, so if you try to use the service you are blocked. Interestingly, this actually results in increased pirating of materials since people in these places are unable to access the materials legally. That also means that Americans and Europeans are paying a premium so these giant entertainment corporations can keep their profits high. Rather a perverse system.

If you try accessing your accounts while abroad it can be a nightmare. If Google doesn’t like your login location your account is blocked. PayPal is notorious and constantly thinks your account is about to be hacked. Apple freaks out and wants to make sure you are really American when you try to make a purchase. And yet, despite all that, they still try to localize the experience for you. I am often having to unblock my account using a webpage in Thai and I don’t read Thai.

To be fair, some of this also due to government regulations. Many developing nations (i.e., third world countries) censor and block a lot of web content. Thailand runs all web traffic through a censorship server and blocks anything to do with the monarchy, government, some porn, and random content the powers that be have decided Thais should not access. Everyone is familiar with China and its absurd 1984 approach to censorship. Even Europe has “privacy” rules in place that make accessing content difficult (France has some especially arcane rules).

Is all of this necessary? No, not really. Unless you think huge corporations should control how you access content and should get their exorbitant fees, that governments should control what content their citizens should be able to access and get their tax dollars, or that credit card companies should make you do their security work for them. I am fine with paying taxes and fees, but controlling information and helping companies too lazy to do their own work bothers me.

All of these companies know I am American. They have my credit card information, drawn on an American bank, and can access my information rather easily (it is creepy how much they know—recently I was asked by Capital One to verify a past address that I had three years ago before I was even a customer of theirs). My physical location should not matter–especially if I told them I was going to be traveling. Of course, most people just don’t travel much and certainly not very far from home. Nonetheless, I find all of these protections and limitation to be more of an annoyance than anything. They don’t help me or protect me. Perhaps they protect big corporations, but I doubt it, and maybe their help government control their people, though I am not convinced of that either. In the end, it is a false sense of security for corporations and governments, and a massive pain in the ass for the average person.