Singapore Airlines (SIA) were quick to reassure passengers on Tuesday (16 Feb) that the camera embedded in some of its inflight entertainment systems have been ‘permanently disabled’.
SIA added that they have no plans to develop any features using those cameras.
They were responding to complaints on social media made by passengers who had spotted the cameras on SIA aircrafts and were concerned about their privacy.
One passenger Vitaly Kamluk has posted several photos of the camera on Twitter on Sunday and asked SIA to clarify the purpose of the cameras:
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? pic.twitter.com/vy0usqruZG
— Vitaly Kamluk (@vkamluk) February 17, 2019
SIA told Channel NewsAsia that the cameras were built into the hardware provided by the equipment manufacturer.
They said, “Some of our newer inflight entertainment systems provided by the original equipment manufacturers do have a camera provisioned and embedded in the hardware.” They added that the manufacturers had intended to use the cameras for future developments.
However, SIA noted that the cameras have been ‘permanently disabled’ on their aircrafts and assured passengers that it cannot be activated on board. They also reiterated that they do not plan on using the cameras in the future.
According to CNA, 84 of SIA’s aircrafts come with cameras embedded in the in-flight entertainment systems including their A250-900s, A380s, Boeing 777-300ERs, and 787-10s.
Passengers were concerned that the cameras could be used by SIA to record and store information, raising the issue of privacy.
I am sure Singapore Airlines are using those cameras to collect data about our habits when watching videos. Very likely. Very interesting. And Marsians built the pyramids.
— ?Callsign? (@KalteMalte53) February 19, 2019
Some users suggested that since SIA said they weren’t using the camera, they should be covered up to put their passengers at ease:
Im sure you could put us at ease by covering the cameras. im sure you can find some small singapore airlines stickers to put on.
— Kate (@Redback) February 19, 2019
So … basically I now have to travel with a roll of bright yellow electrical tape in my bag. Sigh. ?. Not cool @singaporeair not cool at all. Doesn’t matter what you say, those cameras need to be physically covered if they are ‘disabled’, as you say.
— Reluctant CISO (@cybersharpaware) February 18, 2019
While SIA has said that they don’t intend on using these cameras, it raises the question of why they were installed in the first place and why they haven’t been covered up at all. Surely at some point, someone thought it would be a useful feature to have on an aircraft?