If you’ve ever felt like someone’s watching you while you fly, you’re not alone. In addition to the judgemental eyes of fellow passengers and the in-flight crew, there may be actual cameras pointed at you -- depending on what airline you fly. A new report confirmed that American Airlines and Singapore Airlines have cameras built into the in-flight entertainment systems on some of their planes.
The cameras were first discovered on a Singapore Airlines flight by Twitter user @vkamluk. The claim was then corroborated by a BuzzFeed News employee, who spotted something similar while flying American. Both airlines confirmed that the cameras exist, but maintained that they were included with off-the-shelf parts from manufacturers and were never turned on, meaning they’re not spying on you while you fly. Singapore Airlines and American Airlines told the outlet they had no plans to activate them in the future.
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In a statement, an American Airlines spokesperson said the cameras were included in the inflight entertainment systems to allow for “possible future uses, such as hand gestures to control inflight entertainment.” As that technology hasn’t been implemented, both American Airlines and Singapore Airlines chose to disable the cameras.
Seatback cameras, active or not, still pose a privacy risk to airline passengers, though. Cameras attached to connected devices have the potential to be hacked. Before you start totally freaking out, your internet-connected laptop (yeah, the one you’re probably reading this on right now) is way more likely to be hacked than an airplane system. Still, what we’re saying is there’s a chance.
Neither airline has said whether they intend to start covering the cameras to ease passengers’ minds. If you’re worried about being watched while you ugly cry to a drama flick on your next flight, maybe travel with sticky notes or tape. That won’t seem suspicious at all to the TSA.
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