Is this major Asian airline secretly spying on its passengers?
SINGAPORE’S flag carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA) may have been recently named Airline of the Year at the glitzy 2018 Skytrax World Airline awards ceremony, the aviation industry’s equivalent of the Oscars, but it is now making headlines for a whole other reason.
The airline, which created aviation history last year when it flew the world’s longest flight, has allegedly been “caught” installing cameras into its seatback entertainment screens.
How was this discovered?
An eagle-eyed passenger was onboard a new SIA plane when he discovered a rather odd-looking sensor on the entertainment seatback screen.
“Just found this interesting sensor looking at me from the seat back on board of Singapore Airlines,” the passenger tweeted, adding, “Any expert opinion of whether this a camera? Perhaps @SingaporeAir could clarify how it is used?”
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
This kicked the Twitterverse into full gear, with users drawing up the most random, possibly unfounded conclusions.
“In some airline companies they say before the flight leaves that they will record your voice and video while you’re inside the plane,” one user tweeted. “One would expect such surveillance from a Singapore-government-owned entity,” another wrote.
Some passengers are also doubtful that SIA will not turn the “hidden” cameras back on in the future while others are planning to add laptop camera stickers to their packing list.
— CyberSquarePeg (Going to my first RSA Conference!) (@CyberSquarePeg) February 18, 2019
For the uninitiated, there are 84 aircraft in the SIA fleet that has the camera on the seatbacks: the new A350-900s, the refurbished A380s, the older Boeing 777-300ERs, and the new 787-10s, according to Simple Flying.
But could SIA really be adopting the creepy, Black Mirror-esque “big brother” technology to spy on its passengers from 30,000 feet in the air? The airline insisted, no.
In response to the passenger who initially made the query, SIA tweeted, “Hi there, thank you for reaching out to us. We would like to share that some of our newer inflight entertainment systems provided by the original equipment manufacturers do have a camera embedded in the hardware.”
“These cameras have been disabled on our aircraft, and there are no plans to develop any features using the cameras. Thank you,” the airline added.
SIA is not the only airline in the world to have these seatback entertainment screens. Some airplanes operated by American Airlines and United Airlines also seatback entertainment screens with cameras.
American Airlines released a statement to clarify, “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. 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.”