US senators Jeff Merkley and John Kennedy demand answers from airlines over cameras in TV screens

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US senators demand answers from airlines over why cameras have been embedded in some seat-back TV screens

  • Jeff Merkley and John Kennedy have sent a joint letter to eight major US airlines 
  • They want to know whether the cameras could be used to monitor passengers 
  • The pair have put forward a bill to ban the hidden cameras from future aircraft  

Two US senators are demanding answers from airlines on exactly why some in-flight entertainment screens are being fitted with small cameras embedded in them.

Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, and Republican John Kennedy from Louisiana, have sent a joint letter to eight major US carriers wanting to know whether these cameras could be used to monitor passengers and under what circumstances they could be activated.

They’ve also put forward a bill that would prevent airline screens on aircraft in the future from having any embedded cameras or microphones.

Two US senators are demanding to know why some in-flight entertainment screens have embedded cameras. Earlier this year, a passenger on Singapore Airlines spotted a tiny lens in his TV screen, circled

Two US senators are demanding to know why some in-flight entertainment screens have embedded cameras. Earlier this year, a passenger on Singapore Airlines spotted a tiny lens in his TV screen, circled 

Vitalty Kamluk tweeted a picture of the tiny camera to ask what is was for. Singapore Airlines replied saying it was disabled

Vitalty Kamluk tweeted a picture of the tiny camera to ask what is was for. Singapore Airlines replied saying it was disabled

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Embedded cameras on planes came to light earlier this year when Vitalty Kamluk, a passenger on a Singapore Airlines flight, spotted a tiny lens in his in-flight entertainment system and posted a picture of it on Twitter.

Singapore said the camera was disabled, but it has led to speculation that in-screen working cameras could be used to spy on passengers during flights in the future.

This prompted Merkley and Kennedy to address a letter to the CEOs of Delta Air Lines, Southwest, Frontier, United Airlines, Spirit, American Airlines, JetBlue and Alaska Air to ask if they have the same cameras on planes.

The pair are also pressing international carriers to disclose if they have embedded cameras on their planes, too.

Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon

Republican senator John Kennedy from Louisiana

Senators Jeff Merkley, left, and John Kennedy, right, have put forward a bill that would prevent airline screens on future aircraft from having any embedded cameras or microphones

Their bill, called the Passenger Privacy Protection Act of 2019, also calls for cameras already installed on aircraft to be removed, permanently disabled or totally covered over.

Merkley told CNN: ‘The last thing passengers need to worry about is the idea that airlines or hackers may be spying on them while they eat their pretzels. It’s time to protect Americans’ privacy and get rid of hidden cameras and microphones on airplanes.’

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While Kennedy added: ‘It’s one thing to walk through a metal detector and have your bags searched. It’s quite another thing to be secretly spied on while you’re having a private conversation. We shouldn’t take security to absurd levels.’

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have already confirmed that some of the newer seat-back entertainment systems in their fleets have the cameras.

Panasonic, one of the makers of the screens with the embedded cameras, insists that they are nothing to fear (stock image)

Panasonic, one of the makers of the screens with the embedded cameras, insists that they are nothing to fear (stock image) 

But all three airlines said that they have never activated the cameras and have no plans to use them.

According to an American Airlines spokesman, companies that make the entertainment systems are installing cameras to offer future options such as seat-to-seat video conferencing.

Panasonic Avionics, one of the makers of the screens with the embedded cameras, insists that they are nothing to fear.

David Bartlett, chief technology officer at Panasonic Avionics, told CNN: ‘The case to be made for positive benefits coming from cameras is stronger than any concern that they could possibly be used for nefarious purposes.’ 



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