Big Brother is in the clouds … literally!

By: Peter Marshall   •   email: info@trunblocked.com

Right now, newer seat back entertainment systems on some planes operated by American, United and Singapore Airlines have cameras installed. All three airlines maintain that, at this point in time, there are no plans to activate them. Delta also appear to have similar sensors to American and United.

So why install them in the first place? Well, the simple fact is that there are a number of companies currently making entertainment systems who are incorporating cameras to provide options such as seat-to-seat video conferencing. That’s forward thinking. Panasonic make American’s systems and Singapore Airlines uses both Panasonic and Thales.

Given how tech-led we are, it should come as no surprise to anyone to see an increasing use of camera sensors on board seat backs. But there are two thoughts here. The first is that, if they become operational, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to imagine how easy it may be for hacking to take place and for passenger data and privacy to be seriously compromised.

The second point is that the introduction of cameras can be seen as both commercially viable and problematic at the same time. Just think if facial recognition (something we are becoming increasingly accustomed to at immigration checkpoints) and ‘mood reading’ software can identify likely buyers for certain products. Imagine mid flight you see a text pop up on your seat back screen. ”Hi Peter”, the message goes, ”you are looking a bit stressed, possibly jet lag kicking in. Perhaps you need this… or maybe these”. Then, on screen, images or gifs of products or services appear that your personal AI sales/marketer has determined algorithmically to be most on target with respect to your social media profile, age, income, airline, the route your taking, qualifying air miles etc etc.

Fanciful? Not at all. Very doable and a quite worrying without the guarantee of greater safeguards.