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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Haida Gwaii libraries launch new ‘takeout’ curbside pickup service

As of June 5, cardholders can once again access physical copies of books, DVDs and more

Blacktail Haida Gwaii working to reopen with new covered patio

Chef-owner Edi Szasz hopes to reopen on June 25, the one-year anniversary of the restaurant

Skidegate daycare staff recognized for creative care during COVID-19

Staff have been using social media to share isolation activities, read stories and sing songs

Village of Queen Charlotte approves business facade improvement grants

Applications from Gather, dental clinic, A Level Up approved, leaving about $14,000 up for grabs

Recycling services in Queen Charlotte, Port Clements expanding next week

Residential plastics will be accepted again, but most residential transfer stations remain closed

VIDEO: B.C. dentist gets grand welcome home after two months in hospital fighting COVID-19

Michael Chow was given a surprise send off by hospital staff and ‘welcome home’ from neighbours

‘Like finding a needle in a haystack’: Ancient arrowhead discovered near Williams Lake

The artifact is believed to be from the Nesikip period between 7,500 BP to 6,000 BP

Friends, family mourn Salt Spring Island woman killed in suspected murder-suicide

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched for Jennifer Quesnel’s three sons

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Indigenous chief alleges RCMP beat him during arrest that began over expired licence plate

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam calling for independent investigation

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Most Read