Smile: Some airliners have cameras on seat-back screens

Seth Miller, a journalist who has wrote about the issue, says equipment makers didn’t consider privacy

Now there is one more place where cameras could start watching you — from 30,000 feet.

Newer seat-back entertainment systems on some airplanes operated by American Airlines, United Airlines and Singapore Airlines have cameras, and it’s likely they are also on planes used by other carriers.

American, United and Singapore all said Friday that they have never activated the cameras and have no plans to use them.

However, companies that make the entertainment systems are installing cameras to offer future options such as seat-to-seat video conferencing, according to an American Airlines spokesman.

A passenger on a Singapore flight posted a photo of the seat-back display last week, and the tweet was shared several hundred times and drew media notice. Buzzfeed first reported that the cameras are also on some American planes.

The airlines stressed that they didn’t add the cameras — manufacturers embedded them in the 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 they shrink, cameras are being built into more devices, including laptops and smartphones. The presence of cameras in aircraft entertainment systems was known in aviation circles at least two years ago, although not among the travelling public.

READ MORE: Tequila, hammers and knives just a few of what not to bring on an airplane

Seth Miller, a journalist who wrote about the issue in 2017, thinks that equipment makers didn’t consider the privacy implications. There were already cameras on planes — although not so intrusive — and the companies assumed that passengers would trade their images for convenience, as they do with facial-recognition technology at immigration checkpoints, he said.

“Now they’re facing blowback from a small but vocal group questioning the value of the system that isn’t even active,” Miller said.

American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said cameras are in “premium economy” seats on 82 Boeing 777 and Airbus A330-200 jets. American has nearly 1,000 planes.

“Cameras are a standard feature on many in-flight entertainment systems used by multiple airlines,” he said.

Singapore spokesman James Boyd said cameras are on 84 Airbus A350s, Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s and 787s. The carrier has 117 planes.

While the airlines say they have no plans to use the cameras, a Twitter user named Vitaly Kamluk, who snapped the photo of the camera on his Singapore flight, suggested that just to be sure the carriers should slap stickers over the lenses.

“The cameras are probably not used now,” he tweeted. “But if they are wired, operational, bundled with mic, it’s a matter of one smart hack to use them on 84+ aircrafts and spy on passengers.”

David Koenig, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Northwest mobile unit to help those at heart of mental health, addiction crisis

Province, Northern Health unveils new unit in Terrace to bridge gaps in services

Dundas Island clams could be poisonous: health authorities

Butter clams harvested in November 2018 could cause paralytic shellfish poisoning

Uncertain future for Alaska ferry terminal in Prince Rupert

Severe budget cuts could mean ending service to the only Canadian stop on the Alaska Marine Highway

Video: Rupert cafe uses espresso machine to make “eggspresso” eggs

Owner Judson Rowse says they experimented with steam from the machine due to lack of space

Bantam Seawolves place second in provincials

Windemere Valley Rockies beat Prince Rupert 4 - 1 in Bantam Tier 4 B.C. Championships

Rumors to hit the Lester Centre stage this Thursday

Prince Rupert community cast and crew present Neil Simon’s two-act comedy from March 21-23

Permit rejected to bring two cheetahs to B.C.

Earl Pfeifer owns two cheetahs, one of which escaped in December 2015

Real-life tsunami threat in Port Alberni prompts evacuation updates

UBC study says some people didn’t recognize the emergency signal

Care providers call for B.C. seniors’ watchdog to step down

The association also asks the province to conduct an audit and review of the mandate of her office

Sulphur dioxide level peaks in Kitimat

Levels rise to over 60 parts per billion

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from B.C. roaster recalled due to botulism scare

“If you purchased N7 Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from Cherry Hill … do not drink it.”

B.C. man gets award for thwarting theft, sexual assault – all in 10 minutes

Karl Dey helped the VPD take down a violent sex offender

POLL: Have you every used the Alaska ferry from Prince Rupert?

Budget cuts could mean ending service to the only Canadian stop on the Alaska Marine Highway

Nowhere to grieve: How homeless people deal with loss during the opioid crisis

Abbotsford homeless advocate says grief has distinct challenges for those living on the streets

Most Read