Eye In The Sky? Some Australian Planes Also Have Cameras In Their Seat-Back Screens
Cameras pointed at passengers have been found on some in-flight entertainment systems, sparking concerns about who might be watching.
People began to raise privacy concerns after an eagle-eyed traveller noticed a tiny new edition to his in-flight entertainment system while flying with Singapore Airlines.
"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?" a Twitter user named Vitaly Kamluk posted, along with a photo of the screen.
The airline promptly responded to the question via its Twitter account, confirming that newer systems do have cameras embedded in the hardware but that they were not operational.
"These cameras, which were provided by the manufacturers, were disabled in our aircraft," the airline said. "We have no plans to enable any features using the cameras."
Further reports of airlines with the newly-noticed feature were restricted to US carriers, including American Airlines and United Airlines.
But manufacturers for Australian airlines Qantas and Jetstar have also included the inbuilt cameras in some of their aircrafts.
10 daily understands some newer models found on Qantas A330s and Boeing 787s come with the cameras, which the airline has no plans to utilize.
Jetstar also has 11 Boeing 787s in its fleet with the cameras installed in the newer model entertainment systems on board.
In order to use the cameras, there is software which would need to be activated which neither Qantas or Jetstar have.
10 daily understands neither airline plans to activate the cameras.
Tigerair does not have cameras on any of its planes as they do not have built-in entertainment systems. Passengers instead access in-flight entertainment via their own electronic devices.
Despite assurances from all airlines the cameras are not functional, many people on social media were quick to raise questions about the implications the devices may have on privacy.
According to Buzzfeed news an American Airlines spokesperson said the cameras had been included for possible future uses such as hand gestures to control in-flight entertainment or seat-to-seat video conferencing.
Director of UNSW Canberra Cyber Nigel Phair said concerns the technology could be compromised are "extremely valid".
"They've only been manufactured for that purpose if that makes sense," Phair told 10 daily.
"The manufacturer of the system has done it for some sort of reason, and spying might be a long bow but to monitor how people are behaving and who is asleep -- there's all sorts of metrics you could get out of a camera."
As for a third party's ability to access the system for nefarious purposes, Phair does put the situation in the "highly unlikely" category due to the likelihood you would need physical access to the unit.
In this case, the most likely person to hack into your entertainment system camera would be a fellow passenger on the plane.
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Feature image: Vitaly Kamluk Twitter