Several major airlines have just confirmed that some seatback entertainment screens have cameras

A recent discovery at several commercial airlines has many travelers concerned about in-flight privacy: Some planes have cameras attached to their seatback entertainment screens, BuzzFeed News reports. Most airlines that have been spotted installing cameras on their planes have confirmed that they exist but are not currently operating; however, many passengers remain wary.

Singapore Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have all acknowledged the existence of the cameras and noted that they are part of hardware provided by outside manufacturers; however, they also said that the cameras are not currently active or have any activation or Plans for using them. A spokesperson for Singapore Airlines told Bustle via email, "Some of our newer IFE (in-flight entertainment) systems supplied by original equipment manufacturers do have cameras embedded into the hardware. The manufacturers have plans to use these cameras for future developments. These cameras are in our It is not enabled on board and cannot be activated on board. We have no plans to enable or develop any features using the camera."

American Airlines added in a statement provided to Bustle, "Cameras are a standard feature on many inflight entertainment systems used by multiple airlines. Manufacturers of these systems have added cameras for possible future uses, such as in-seat In-seat video conferencing. Although these cameras are available on some American Airlines in-flight entertainment systems provided by the manufacturer, they have never been activated and American Airlines has not considered using them.”

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United Airlines and Delta Air Lines both also provided statements to Bustle. A United spokesperson said: "Like many other airlines, some of our premium seats are equipped with inflight entertainment systems and have cameras installed by the manufacturer. This is a standard feature added by the system manufacturer for possible future use. , such as video conferencing, but our cameras have never been activated on United aircraft and we have no plans to use them in the future.”

Meanwhile, a Delta representative said, "Delta has a limited number of in-flight entertainment screens equipped with the cameras included with the manufacturer. They do not work properly and Delta does not have any plans to install the necessary software to use them." ”

The continuous discovery of all these cameras began on February 17, 2019, when Twitter user Vitaly Kamluk (@vkamluk) tweeted a photo of an "interesting sensor" discovered on the in-flight entertainment screen of a Singapore Airlines flight .

Singapore Airlines responded on Twitter shortly afterwards, confirming that "some newer inflight entertainment systems from OEMs do have cameras embedded in the hardware" and saying the cameras are disabled on the aircraft where they appear.

Sri Ray, a former site reliability engineer at BuzzFeed, later told BuzzFeed News that he noticed similar cameras in the premium economy cabin of an American Airlines flight to Tokyo in September 2018. American Airlines also confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the cameras exist but are inactive. On Monday, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines also confirmed to BuzzFeed News the presence of cameras on IFE displays on some of their aircraft, noting that they are located in premium economy cabins on some international routes. Like the previous two airlines, United and Delta said the cameras were not activated and had no plans to activate them in the future.

As The Verge points out, even if cameras aren't enabled, they can still pose privacy concerns. Jon Porter wrote at the outlet: "Any camera connected to an internet-connected device is at least at risk of being hacked, and while an airplane is harder to access than an internet-connected laptop, it's still possible to hack it ”

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Seth Miller, a reporter who has covered the story for years, told The Associated Press that the makers of the IFE system may have "failed to consider the privacy implications of putting cameras on the backs of people's seats." Miller's reasoning, according to the AP, is that "the company believes passengers will swap images of themselves for convenience, much like they do with facial recognition technology at immigration checkpoints." However, the camera's lack of transparency makes many travelers uncomfortable .

Nicole Nguyen wrote in BuzzFeed News that "if the camera is indeed useless, airlines can calm passengers' concerns by covering the lens with a plastic cover"; however, passengers can also follow the time-honored tradition of covering the camera lens with tape or Stickers and solve the problem yourself. A sticky note can even get the job done.

As Josh Ocampo observed at Lifehacker, "At this point, it seems like a minor quibble, and it's not exactly a neat camera"—that is, you're unlikely to miss it. If it bothers you, you can always add a roll of tape to your carry-on the next time you take to the skies.