United Airlines Covers Inflight Entertainment Cameras Over Privacy Concerns

May 6, 2019 Updated: May 6, 2019

A major American airline will conceal the camera built into its inflight entertainment system in response to privacy concerns.

United Airlines will cover all camera lenses built into the back of plane seats to address fears passengers may be secretly recorded throughout their flight.

The cameras are included as a standard across many inflight entertainment systems, but the carrier says it does not enable passengers to use them, according to Fox News.

“None of these cameras were ever activated and we had no plans to use them in the future,” a United Airlines spokesperson told Fox.

The airline explained the cameras were installed with the intention to one day offer a new webcam service.

“The cameras are a standard feature that manufacturers of the system included for possible future purposes such as video conferencing,” the spokesperson said. “However, we took the additional step to cover the cameras.”

Singapore Airlines addressed similar concerns in February, when a passenger questioned the carrier’s motives behind having a hidden camera in the inflight entertainment system.

“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 Singapore Air could clarify how it is used?,” Vitaly Kamluk said in a Twitter post on Feb. 17.

The airline responded with an explanation that the original equipment manufacturer does embed a camera in the hardware for some passengers traveling in business, premium economy, and economy class.

“These cameras have been disabled on our aircraft and there are no plans to develop any features using the cameras,” Singapore Airlines said in a Twitter post on Feb. 17.

A Singapore Airlines spokesperson told Forbes the cameras made by Panasonic and Thales are “disabled” and there are “no plans to enable or develop any features using the cameras.” The technology can also be found in the carrier’s Airbus 350, A-380, Boeing 777-300ER, and B787-10 fleet.

It was previously reported several years ago that Thales was considering installing infrared cameras within the inflight entertainment system to capture body language and eye-movement as a cheaper alternative to more expensive input devices like touch screens.

“[This would look like] the webcam built into most of today’s laptop screens, an infrared camera linked to the standard seatback screen is capable of reading a passenger’s hand gestures to select IFE content and even control games,” Flightglobal reported, according to Forbes. “For passengers, the trick is to imagine a touchscreen hovering in mid-air at chest level.”