Imagine you are flying 30,000 above the ground and even there could be someone watching your every move. Recently American, United and Singapore Airlines have confirmed that they have cameras in some of their planes seat-back entertainment systems.
These newer seat-back entertainment systems with cameras are currently installed on some of the airplanes operated by American Airlines, United Airlines, and Singapore Airlines, and there is no reason to believe that they are not installed on planes used by other carriers as well.
American, United, and Singapore all confirmed Friday that they have never activated these cameras and have no plans to use them to spy on their passengers.
Then why are the companies that make the entertainment systems are installing cameras in it? To offer future options such as seat-to-seat video conferencing, according to an American Airlines spokesman.
Just found this interesting sensor looking at me from the seat back on board of Singapore Airlines. Any expert opinion of whether this a camera? Perhaps @SingaporeAir could clarify how it is used? pic.twitter.com/vy0usqruZG— Vitaly Kamluk (@vkamluk) February 17, 2019
It was first noticed when a passenger posted a photo of the seat-back entertainment system from the middle of a Singapore flight last week on Twiiter, and the tweet was quickly retweeted several hundred times and drew media attention. Buzzfeed first reported that the cameras are also on some American planes.
The airlines stressed that the cameras came pre-installed with the entertainment systems — manufacturers embedded them in the back seat entertainment systems. American’s systems are made by Panasonic, while Singapore uses Panasonic and Thales, according to airline representatives. Neither Panasonic nor Thales responded immediately for comment.
As the size of the cameras is getting smaller and smaller, they are being conveniently used into more devices, including laptops and handheld devices. The presence of cameras in aircraft back seat entertainment systems were known to the aviation authorities at least two years ago, although not among the general traveling public.
Cameras are now used in advertising billboards, our smart home devices and on every second street corner, tracking our every move and gradually building up a digital profile that includes information related to our personal lives. Add airplanes to the mix and you have a terrifying new way to calculate your social credit score. What happens on the way to Vegas doesn’t stay in the air.
Since there is no use of these cameras for anything, there’s no reason why American Airlines, United Airlines, and Singapore Airlines shouldn’t physically cover them. Even covering them with a simple sticky tape would do – just talk to Mark Zuckerberg about it.