Vitaly Kamluk, a malware researcher, recently spotted what appeared to be a camera lens integrated into the seatback inflight entertainment system on a Singapore Airlines flight. It emerged that some recent IFE products indeed feature an integrated camera even though Singapore Airlines and others have denied using them to monitor passengers. Two U.S. senators are now demanding answers as they want airlines to clarify how these devices are used.
Singapore Airlines had said in a statement that the cameras had been intended by manufacturers of the inflight entertainment systems for future feature additions and that the cameras are permanently disabled on its aircraft and can’t be activated on board.
Democrat Senator Jeff Merkley and Republican John Kennedy have written a bipartisan letter to several major airlines with questions about how the seatback inflight entertainment system cameras are used. Even though the airlines have denied using them to monitor passengers, tech experts have concerns about whether or not these cameras can be hacked.
“While Americans have an expectation that they are monitored in airports as a necessary security measure, the notion that in-flight cameras may monitor passengers while they sleep, eat, or have private conversations is troubling,” the letter says. It adds that owing to recent data breaches which impacted major airlines, they have “misgivings” that these cameras may not have the necessary security measures to prevent them from hacking.
The senators have sent their letter to CEOs of Delta, Southwest, United, Frontier, Spirit, American, JetBlue, and Alaska Air. Each airline has been asked to answer questions about seatback cameras. They specifically want to know if each airline uses the cameras to monitor passengers, what circumstances might cause the cameras to be activated, and whether passengers are informed about this.
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