(CNN) — Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific has revealed it is monitoring passengers via onboard cameras, re-opening an uncomfortable debate over surveillance on airplanes.
Cathay confirmed it is collecting images of passengers while they’re on board, monitoring their usage of the in-flight entertainment system (IFE) and how they spend time during the flight.
The airline said these images are captured via CCTV cameras fixed around the airplane and not from embedded seat-back cameras.
“All images are handled sensitively with strict access controls. There are no CCTV cameras installed in the lavatories.”
Cathay’s spokesperson said similar devices were not installed in its IFEs. “Our inflight entertainment systems do not have any cameras, microphones or sensors to monitor passengers, nor have they in the past.”
“We will retain your Personal Data for as long as is necessary,” reads the policy.
While CCTV surveillance is accepted by many as a reassuring security measure, others feel tracking passengers in the confines of an airplane cabin is a step too far.
Courtesy Cathay Pacific
“The true risk comes from potential unauthorized access to these devices from powerful malicious attackers. As far as IFE is connected to the Internet, there is a possibility of remote hack and espionage if such devices can be activated in software,” he said.
Panasonic Avionics, which supplies some IFE systems for Cathay Pacific, has previously said fears of surveillance and privacy breach are “a bit of an overreaction.” The company says seat-back cameras will soon become an accepted part of flying, offering opportunities for seat-to-seat video conferencing, among other usages.
“I believe it’s going to settle down, that 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,” said David Bartlett, the company’s chief technology officer.
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