United Airlines has begun to physically cover embedded webcams in flight entertainment devices following privacy concerns, according to a report from BuzzFeed . The screens, business-grade tablets provided to United by Panasonic's aviation equipment division, are said to come with built-in webcams by default, and Panasonic executives say that one day the cameras could provide enhanced entertainment features, as video from seat to seat Calling and even playing. United states that it did not specially order its webcams screens.
"As with many other airlines, some of our premium seats have in-flight entertainment systems that come with cameras installed by the manufacturer, and since then, all cameras have been covered, never activated and we do not have plans to use in the future, "said a spokesman for United BuzzFeed . The report indicates that the airline will continue to cover the webcams in all future installations of its premium seating options, which come with the Panasonic screens already incorporated in the backup.
The privacy controversy came up earlier this year when some passengers, especially cybersecurity researcher Vitaly Kamluk, began noticing webcams on the backrest screens. The initial protest was about the inclusion of Singapore Airlines of the screens equipped with webcam without informing the passengers and without revealing if the webcams were active. However, it was soon discovered that Panasonic Avionics, a leading provider of in-flight entertainment systems, has also been supplying American airlines such as American and United with similar screens equipped with webcams.
Several airlines responded immediately after stating that they never ordered screens with webcams. American said he had disabled the webcams and says he has no plans to ever use them. Lisa Connell, Delta's general product manager, told The Verge at the time, "A limited number of Delta in-flight entertainment screens have cameras, and in those cases they were included by the manufacturer and no feature that we order The cameras are not functional and we have no plans to install the necessary software to use them. "
Delta says it is moving away from relying on outside providers and is instead focusing on building its own flight entertainment systems under a new division called Delta Flight Products. "Delta Flight Products was launched in 2016 to give us the ability to take more control of the flight experience," said Connell The Verge . "We can be more selective with what we want a product to look like and eliminate the components that we do not need, such as cameras, in this case."
The New York Times reported last month that United was considering covering its web cameras with physical pieces of plastic or stickers, and it seems that the company has followed that strategy to minimize the privacy issues under way. It is not clear why Panasonic has decided to build screens with built-in webcams when none of their suppliers seem to want them and passengers seem to be uncomfortable with their presence. The company was not immediately available for comment.