Even cruising through the sky, the possibility of a digital privacy invasion remains. Two entertainment systems used by Singapore Airlines and American Airlines were recently discovered to have outward-facing cameras. Both airlines failed to notify passengers that their aircraft entertainment systems were equipped with such devices, but the carriers insist the cameras were never activated,
A recent discovery was made by a savvy passenger, who spotted the small lens immediately beneath the screen monitor on the seat in front of him on a Singapore Airlines flight. Vitaly Kamluk tweeted photos of his finding, which drew a fair amount of engagement online.
Singapore Airlines responded to his pictures on Twitter, writing: "These cameras have been disabled on our aircraft, and there are no plans to develop any features using the cameras. Thank you."
Another passenger who spoke to BuzzFeed noticed a similar camera on an American Airlines flight in 2017. A spokesman for the airline confirmed the cameras to BuzzFeed, saying they're a common feature on in-flight entertainment systems used by a multitude of airlines. The cameras exist to potentially enable passengers to make entertainment selections with hand gestures, the spokesman said.
The news stretches the growing paranoia concerning digital privacy into the aviation industry, which is notorious for its outdated and vulnerable technology. Hacking a connected device at 35,000 feet wouldn't be easy as breaching an airline's website, but the vulnerability of networked cameras in general remains.
The recent onslaught of privacy-related news won't help the public's sense of unease, either: Earlier this week, Google admitted that it failed to disclose that its Nest Secure home security devices have a microphone wedged inside. Less than a month before that, Google confirmed a recent uptick in hacks on its Nest security cameras, allowing attackers to peer into users homes and utter obscenities and abuse through its microphone.
Now an invasion of privacy could be possible even from the cramped quarters of the economy cabin.