Some airlines are getting a lot of social media attention after Twitter users took pictures of mysterious cameras on in-flight entertainment systems. While the initial post only identified Singapore Airlines, other big names like American Airlines have admitted that they too, have cameras.
Is this the next step of surveillance? Should Americans be worried about being spied on while flying American?
Are there cameras on the entertainment systems of American Airline planes? Are they being used to spy on customers?
Yes, there are cameras on the in-flight entertainment systems of some American Airlines planes. However, American Airlines claims they are disabled with no plans to use them.
WHAT WE FOUND
An American Airlines spokesperson said, "Cameras are a standard feature on many in-flight entertainment systems used by multiple airlines. Manufacturers of those systems have included cameras for possible future uses such as seat-to-seat video conferencing."
One in-flight entertainment manufacturer, Thale, has been developing eye tracking and hand gesture control for their in-flight entertainment systems for years. Here's a video showing the technology in 2013. Such technology would need cameras to operate.
But, the airline claims that none of the cameras are currently in use.
"While these cameras are present on some American Airlines in-flight entertainment systems as delivered from the manufacturer, they have never been activated and American is not considering using them.”
Put simply, they say the model of screen they bought came with a camera included, but it's currently disconnected from use.
Whether that changes in the future is yet to be seen.