Microcontrollers are Export Controlled

This item is export controlled by the United States government. By law, we are required to gather the following information from you as the importer.

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I ordered a Teensy 3.2 from SparkFun and received the following letter:

Customer Service


Your recent SparkFun order contains Teensy 3.2 DEV-13736. This item is export controlled by the United States government. By law, we are required to gather the following information from you as the importer:

  1. Do you intend to sell or send this item to anyone in any of the following countries: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria?
  2. Will this be used in any military applications?
  3. Will you be the ultimate end user of this item? If you are not the end user, who will this item be sold or transferred to? Please include full name, physical address, end use and confirmation that they will not sell or transfer this item to any party in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria.
  4. What is the end use of this item? Please provide a specific description of the intended application of these items.
  5. Where is the location where the item will be used?

Response to all five questions is necessary before we are able to ship your order. If we don’t hear back from you within one week, your order will need to be canceled. Please let me know if you have any questions. I hope you have a great day!

T, Customer Service Representative, SparkFun Electronics

Apparently, microcontrollers are dangerous and/or privileged goods and the US government needs a solemn promise that they won’t be used for “bad purposes”.



Here are the answers to the five questions. I solemnly swear that I am up to only good.

  1. No, but I will post the schematics and code that I will use along with this item to The Internet. Technically, this information is accessible from ALL countries (1). What is more, the schematic for the item itself is already published by the manufacturer
  2. No, although we Estonians have compulsory military service and one could argue that using the Teensy to educate myself will improve my performance in the military
  3. Yes, although it is not within my power to guarantee who will ultimately recycle The Item or its Components
  4. The item will be used to build a self-made, touch-sensitive computer keyboard. Probably within a wooden frame, but I am unwilling to testify on this point. This claim can be verified by following my blog, where I will post the build log for this project as soon as I complete it. To the best of my knowledge, I will violate no US patents by building the non-explosive device myself, instead of buying one from Apple.
  5. Milky Way, Earth, Europe, European Union, The Republic of Estonia, Harjumaa, Tallinn. I have already submitted my shipping address; although this is subject to change in a year or so.
  • (1) If they haven’t censored my blog and/or Github (2)
  • (2) …but they might use a VPN to bypass the censorship (3)
  • (3) …unless The Country blocks VPN too

I apologize for the snark (somewhat), but this is my response to the sillyness of classifying a microcontroller as restricted goods. Kind of reminds the “Encryption is munition” idea from the 90’s.

The best, A

I found this amusing, annoying and well, pointless: how will my “promise” stop me from doing something bad, selling the device to someone who might do something bad or be legally binding in any way (considering e-mail is not authenticated nor legally binding).

So, just in case, I signed my reply with Estonian digital signature.

Signed e-mail

What an odd world to be a maker in.

This jab is directed towards the US regulatory bodies, not SparkFun.

Reference: Export Compliance.