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We’re not spying on you – honest, says Singapore Airlines

February 21, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email


Singapore Airlines is fending off passenger concerns about the tiny cameras that have been noticed in the seatback monitor screens of its planes. Why are they there?

Twitter user Vitaly Kamluk discovered the little camera holes and posted an alert.

“Just found this interesting sensor looking at me from the seat back on board of Singapore Airlines. Any expert opinion of whether this a camera? Perhaps @SingaporeAir could clarify how it is used?”

Singapore Airlines replied smartly: “These cameras have been disabled on our aircraft, and there are no plans to develop any features using the cameras. Thank you.”

That didn’t placate social media, with users asking why the airline had installed them in the first place. Others pointed out that just because the cameras are disabled now, it doesn’t mean that at some future time the airline couldn’t turn them on.

The concerns are relevant because some cameras can be hacked into and switched on remotely. There’s a famous photo of Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg posing with an Instagram screen – inadvertently revealing that the webcam and microphone jack on his computer are taped over, because Zuckerberg knows that webcams and microphones are hackable.

 

Famous Mark Zuckerberg photo shows tape over his camera and microphone jack

 

Singapore Airlines explains: “These cameras on our newer IFE [in-flight entertainment] systems were provided by the original equipment manufacturers. We have no plans to enable or develop any features using the cameras.”

Cameras are a standard feature of many screens. Panasonic Avionics and Emirates Airline are installing in economy class on Emirates 777-300ERs new smart monitors that Panasonic publicity says will “include high-power USB Type A and Type C, Bluetooth technology, a high-resolution camera, 3D multiplayer gaming and integrated audio connector”.

In 2017, outlining future potential, Panasonic Avionics spoke of using biometric recognition tools to improve the passenger experience, using seat-back cameras to monitor the mood and even the health of passengers.

Some suspicious types have questioned if the Singapore Airlines cameras are really inactive.

One cheeky comment: “It’s Singapore, they spank you with a cane for chewing gum. Of course the cameras are ON!”

According to SimpleFlying.com, 84 aircraft in the Singapore Airlines fleet have the seatback camera fitted: the new A350-900s, refurbished A380s, older Boeing 777-300ERs and new B787-10 Dreamliners.

Most passengers are likely to accept the Singapore Airlines assurance – or are simply not bothered about the issue. For those feeling paranoid, the do-it-yourself Mark Zuckerberg tape fix remains an option.

Written by Peter Needham



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