What’s the first thing you do after boarding a plane? There’s locating the right seat, stowing your carry-on as close as possible, putting a bandage strip on the screen in front of you, adjusting the seat…
Yes, putting a bandage strip on the screen facing your seat. Or a piece of masking or duct tape. Something opaque, because some leading airlines have admitted that some of those screens facing seats have a built-in camera.
Seems crazy. But then, the industry often does, whether it’s dealing with overbooked flightsor the potential of zig-zag seating that would leave you staring at other people during the flight.
BuzzFeed has found that multiple airlines have installed screens for entertainment systems that also include a camera pointed at the passenger. That is, you. So far they’ve been found on Singapore Airlines, American Airlines, and both United and Delta.
The airlines all say that it just happens to be equipment that comes as part of the entertainment systems they install. Either the feature’s been disabled or never was active and, no, they have no plans to use them.
Well, maybe. But if you’ve been a passenger on an airline in the last five years, having trust in a carrier’s keeping your interests at the forefront would seem an exercise in Olympic-level credulity.
According to BuzzFeed, some airlines, like Emirates, do have active cameras on some flights for first-class passengers who want to do teleconferencing at 30,000 feet. But even if you go with the explanations of Singapore and United and American and Delta, you’re left with the question of why the cameras aren’t covered over. Surely a bit of plastic that would blend nicely with the décor might have been a good idea.
You’d be asking, perhaps, whether the airlines that don’t currently have plans to use the devices might decide one day that they do have plans after all. Or if instead it’s a matter of having so little concern over consumers’ reactions and interests that no one even thought of it.
We live in a world where devices listen in to conversations and let your parrot order all kinds of things from Amazon. Really, people don’t trust companies. For good reasons.
That gets us back to the bandage or duct tape or whatever. If you find yourself at a seat with a camera staring at you, slap the strip over the lens, sit back, and congratulate yourself on regaining some of your human dignity.
By the way, did you check for microphones?