Flying is so fun already. The security. The recirculated air. The way you always seem to get seated next to a crying baby, and while you totally feel for that baby — and its stressed parent — and know it’s not their fault, you also really wanted to sleep and will you please stop crying. See? Flying is so fun. You know what could make it more fun, though? Adding a security risk like a camera on the seat-back entertainment system on the chair in front of you. Oh … wait.
American Airlines made a statement this week about some of its planes being equipped with such cameras after a former website reliability engineer at BuzzFeed, Sri Ray, tipped of his colleagues about a camera he spotted on American Airlines Boeing 777-200 during a flight to Tokyo in the fall of 2018.
American Airlines spokesperson Ross Feinstein confirmed to BuzzFeed News that cameras are present on some of the airlines’ in-flight entertainment systems, but said “they have never been activated, and American is not considering using them.” Feinstein added, “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 hand gestures to control in-flight entertainment.”
More recently, a passenger on a Singapore Airlines flight noticed a similar-looking camera. The airline replied on Twitter saying the cameras were disabled.
Couple of things here. First, seems like a piece of tape could have saved everybody a whole lot of bad press. Covering cameras with plastic or tape or your thumb, in a pinch, is an easy way to make a device more secure. And second, I don’t know how many more times we are going to be able to believe companies saying sorry we didn’t mention the built-in creep technology but we swear we’re not using it. Earlier this week, Google apologized after it was revealed that its Nest home-security systems came with previously undisclosed built-in mics.