Hell there aren't mass shootings in China either. Again, authoritarians often cite Order as the result of just giving in to their oppressive tactics.
flying domestically I had my eyes scanned and thumb print taken, and was tracked more or less everywhere I went.
Are you arguing this is a good thing?
It's a thoroughly miserable process no matter what way you slice it.
I'd rather not feel negatively for no reason, because it hurts me and doesn't help me in any way. Maybe you have a better reason to go through life unhappily, but I don't.
"You know what, I'm looking forward to this wage slave touching my credit card. I hope they can't scan one of my items and I have to go put it back."
It's possible to be a nasty person in any situation. It never helps you. Your mindset causes you pain and you can literally choose not to do that.
It's spot on, and unbelievable to me that there are no other options available for air travel. With the amount of time business executives spend in the air I have to imagine there is an airline company out there modeling the business case for increased ticket prices with the justification of companies subsidizing to make up for lost productivity.
- written from the 3rd flight I've taken this week
It's not just productivity - after a 6 hour flight starting from midnight, I have no idea how people are allowed to drive. I hear complaints about "why do people stand up immediately when the plane lands?" - I stand up so that I'll have enough feeling in my leg that I can actually walk off the plane by the time the doors open. Every bit of you is reduced by the time you're clumping off that airplane.
One might say "But what about hackers?", luckily unlike Alexa or Google Home, it's hard for hackers to tinker with one these devices and find remotely-triggerable exploits.
Would be very convenient for them if there were "unused" microphones and cameras everywhere and just tap the one when they need it.
What makes you think that people with full time jobs and careers based on obtaining private information would not be interested in listening to their targets who are sitting on a chair next to their business partner/colleague for hours?
Talk about the tag line for the past decade.
And AA can fix this with stickers. Occasionally a kid will peel one off, but nobody will really care.
Yes, very hard for people with skills, indeed.
I'm not sure who you think is ignoring these issues. They're in the mainstream news, and on HN almost every day.
Given the last 20 years of bad behavior from tech companies overall, and the steady erosion of privacy in nearly all quarters, I question your confidence and must ask "based on what?"
They could have analytics that say "Passenger X (profile: male, paid with a platinum credit card, flew 5 times in the last 6 months) watched movie Y for 40 minutes before looking up the price for the WiFi connectivity and deciding against it (pressing Cancel) after 2 minutes. Passenger turned off the display and only turned it on again 2 hours later at 9:45 PM (the flight attendants started serving food at 9:40 PM), suggesting the passenger slept until they started serving dinner.", but for that they don't need a camera, they can just use analytics software that already monitor your activity inside mobile apps.
It would be extremely cheap, that's why they chose android based tablets in the first place and the government has deep enough pockets to try to break TLS. Developing an app that records a video to storage is completely trivial.
> More and more devices have cameras built into them. From smartphones to tablets to Alexa-powered smart speakers, cameras have become the norm, rather than the exception, for most hardware
From a tech side, I can understand the coolness factor of equipping all your devices with microphones and cameras - however, even though this particular example didn't do much, I think we're i for a lot of risks if this trend continued.
I took this 13-second video on when the flight I was on last year rebooted the in-flight entertainment system upon landing. I sat there for an hour with an opportunity to poke around the menus.
I mean, at least they weren't using Win98, but that's a pretty low bar.
Security researchers have shown it is possible to gain access to the on-board computer systems:
And one man appears to have elevated that access to actually control the plane:
So, no, I don't think this is a distraction whatsoever. We have the capacity to cover both of these issues.
All we have is a word from some dude. A very irresponsible one, if his claims are true.
Oh, I don't think we're ignoring those things.
This is becoming a form of digital whataboutism and false equivalence. I can't read comments about seatback airline cameras without being reminded of these other "violations" as though they are related. Maybe the collective "we" are ignoring them because "we" don't consider them privacy violations or just don't care, despite the fact that those bombarding us want us to.
But I think a lot of what we sometimes label whataboutism is just people marveling how people in general are just so terrible at risk assessment that they'll latch onto minimal-risk items and get outraged about them, while at the same time engaging in higher-risk activities in the same context.
But there's also the fact that the "what about"-er has no idea what the parent poster is concerned with; saying they're "ignoring actual privacy violations being done by e.g. Facebook or Twitter, or the millions of ad networks" might be entirely false. Maybe they're concerned about both things.
I'd say there's a difference between idly attempting to gain perspective/compare, and dismissing/shaming the original content and its interested receivers via contrast. The latter is the problem, especially when it's framed as a mutually exclusive option between the primary subject and the contrasted subject, as though there is a fixed maximum of concern that can be had.
Do you have reason to believe otherwise? If so, you should take the bet. Otherwise, readers have no reason to believe someone who isn't willing to put their money over their mouth is, over someone who is. Especially if you don't even bother to give reasons for your belief.
It's easy enough to repair, too -- just apply some opaque tape to the camera.
This isn't quite true. They're not off-the-shelf (COTS) Android tablets - the hardware is custom, especially in terms of industrial design (although the chipset is pretty standard). IFE manufacturers aren't going to OEMs and re-purposing commercial tablet designs.
You couldn't use off-the-shelf tablets anyway, because they have lithium batteries in them - and whilst the form factors might work for economy seating, in business and first class you often see very large units, larger than any tablet available today. IFE systems also need a much wider variety of I/O than "consumer" Android tablets provide.
There are also requirements vis a vis safety and impact that make commercial tablets unsuitable. For example, the display is usually made of plastic rather than glass, since these units have to survive a lot of abuse.
Some example components from one of the two big manufacturers: https://www.panasonic.aero/inflight-systems/x-series/key-com...
Source: I worked in the IFE industry when they were transitioning from Linux based systems over to Android. One of the primary drivers for doing so was software, rather than hardware.
The boards still had markings for the tablet parts and even reported themselves as some random consumer tablet you can find on Alibaba over ADB.
Not much of a difference from an end-user perspective
And for those wondering, we also got cameras for "free" depending on the model. It's not that we needed a camera, but some screen sizes already came with a camera embedded in the screen and their pricing was not out of line with the ones that didn't have cameras so we'd get them for other reasons.
But if this is custom hardware then somebody must have wanted these cameras on there? To what end?
I mean, the explanation could be as simple as "it's semi-custom hardware with the minimum number of changes from a commercial tablet". In that case, it has a camera for the same reason brown sugar is refined sugar with molasses added back in: it's cheaper to stay on the path of high volume as much as possible.
Of course, it could also be a more nefarious explanation. Short of mass surveillance by the government, I can't think of one: it's not like the airlines don't know exactly who is in which seat.
Not any tablet - I refer you to the 18" Samsung Galaxy View.
I'm guessing economies of scale precipitated the move. It has also come with a significant improvement in touch screen quality which is welcomed (the old Linux based ones had resistive screens).
Delta and GoGo just launched a “wireless IFE” on the new A220 that is basically just a customized Android tablet sucking down/streaming the IFE stuff from a server either in the back of the plane or from satellites using the 2k WiFi system (likely the server on the plane, but admittedly I haven’t looked into the tech specifics), which is designed to be modular for this reason.
Plus, if you’re not reliant on the IFE boxes under the seats (which the Linux/BusyBox units were), you can do a lot of the processing and serving and network stuff on the device rather than having to have those outated and expensive to upgrade computers in each row. Probably just a cheap to get a capricituve screen 10” tablet screen with a Mediatek quad-core professor and 2GB of RAM as if would be to get one “naked” too.
There are a few airlines with live TV. I think Southwest and JetBlue, but I could be wrong because mostly I sleep on planes.
I kinda fancy the idea of Netflix partnering with an airline to offer the IFE, wonder if that will ever ever happen.
JetBlue uses the NYC satellite feed for its local stations (FOX, NBC, CBS, ABC) and I think Delta's might rotate (it's def not the local Atlanta stations) and like satellite, if weather is bad/obstructed, your live TV sucks/goes out.
Knew someone that worked for a company that builds those in flight experiences, and that's where everyone would get their dump of "insert airline" watermarked movies for the month.
I'm already used to security cameras in pretty much every public building I walk in...
...can anyone think of something nefarious that could be done with these cameras?
The only possible "threat" I can think of would be to eavesdrop on someone's laptop/conversation for potential business secrets or otherwise, but the cameras are pointed at someone's face (not screen) and no mention is made of a microphone... although planes used to have those phones (obviously with a microphone) in them for many years.
And in any case, a commercial flight is probably not the best place to be discussing top-secret info anyways.
What I don’t understand is why there aren’t commodify parts available sans cameras, given the myriad of use-cases and the customer volume for camera-free Android/Linux/QNX (I doubt QNX is even a player given their royalties but just thinking of what embedded systems are available) tablets.
Anyway, it would take very little effort to assuage customers by blocking the cameras. If a 2¢ cover is too much, gaffer tape would work. It’s disappointing — though not surprising — that the airline industry hasn’t done this.
Yes. In fact, an acquaintance of mine is staying at a psychiatric hospital being treated for schizophrenia. He has absolutely nothing to do all day and wants to read books from the library. But he can't easily access the library.
This is possible (but slow and inconvenient) to do with an e-reader, but very convenient with a tablet.
However, devices with cameras or microphones are not permitted in the psych ward. They can be used to compromise the privacy of other patients. So the hospital would not allow tablets.
I "upgraded" a cheap tablet for him by permanently disabling the microphoneaand camera using a power drill and some epoxy. He's thrilled with it and the hospital has asked for more!
Nice. I guess this is the psychological equivalent of crappy hospital food right when your body is recovering and has the highest need of nutrients.
Military and hospitals alone would strike me as being a big enough market to at least deserve a SKU/option.
Mostly, making just one SKu drops the price and inventory handling so incredibly much that it isn't worthwhile. Especially when most people believe it is secure enough just to disable it in software. That said, most security minded people may not believe that, but it seems they are in the minority when it comes to business decision making.
Or even just those with a physical switch that cuts power to them ... for everyone.
Maybe a backup switch that can be "broken" that effectively permanently cuts power to them? So you sell the same tablet, but you stick a key in a spot, turn, and they're disabled for good.
Me too. Given what I use tablets for, all other things being equal I would absolutely prefer one that didn't have a camera and microphone over one that did.
That or complete disconnect with customer priorities (oh, they won't care).
Most people don't care (yet) about their privacy, as evidenced by the scads of money that scummy data companies like Facebook et al are making selling our lives to advertisers.
The big trend in international business class (both with US domestic and foreign carriers) is to make the seats as private as possible. Delta has doors on the A350, Qatar does something similar on the QSuite (which can be configured even for four people to have their only little pod and a double bed for couples), and others are following suit.
For those of us who travel extensively for work (especially international travel) and are expected to be ready to go upon landing (I sometimes have meetings or stage rehearsals within ours of landing after a 10+ hour flight -- though I usually try to arrange my travel so I have at least a night before to adjust, that isn't always possible), sleeping on planes is imperative and it's why you pay thousands of dollars for a lay-flat seat in a private cocoon for business class.
Also, people who do video conferencing on airplanes are the worst. The absolute worst. (Unless you're in one of the private first-class suites I'll never be able to afford, then knock yourself out.)
The problem there, and here, is people don't really care.
A small amount of disgruntled air travelers stranded on the tarmac led to the establishment of a Passenger Bill of Rights: https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-t.... So I wouldn't say that this is worthless or that this is not impactful.
I honestly don't think this is true. I think that most people don't realize the amount of surveillance they're being subjected to, and many of those that do realize it engage in a little self-deception (they aren't really watching/they dont'care/etc.) in order to be OK with it.
But that's changing, and fast.
I really don't think people care as much as you think. HN is not a good representation of how regular people think or feel.
The cameras weren't hidden.
> We also have the customary day of rage [...]
It was the Two Minutes Hate.
> Don't get me started on the butchering of the English language...
In the book, the changes to English -- to make it into Newspeak -- were controlled. No such control exists in the real world.
> It's ironic [...]
It seems not to be.
And I've seen no one complain about the cameras some food chains use in their table-side checkout systems. Red Robin is the first that comes to mind. It sits there your entire meal... Obviously it's to take your pic when you swipe your credit card (and apparently scan coupons and gift cards).
"Scan coupons and gift cards with the built-in camera"
It was putting cameras in public transit that got me to stop using public transit.
Instead, what would make sense to me is to have an across the board regulatory requirement that cameras, regardless of purpose, product type, etc.:
(1) must be clearly marked (logo, wording, etc.), and
(2) must have some kind of reliable, independent way to shut them down or defeat them (such as a plastic shutter to cover the camera, etc. -- not just a software controlled indicator light).
That way there is considerably less need for complicated agree-to-disagree debates about whether a camera should or shouldn't exist in this or that context. Instead, there would be one thing that is clear cut, objective, and possible to enforce, and people would be empowered to do something about the cameras around them. (Except for security cameras, which would need to be a separate category.)
Instead people are raising the issue of a stock camera that's obviously not being used to record. There would be no way to keep that a secret, everything in an airplane has to be FAA approved.
How long until that camera gets enabled to do eyetracking for ad and premium services tracking. Whos to say its not already?
Mixed it in with facial recognition so they can sell that data to other ad agencies and now you see the problem with allowing the camera to exist at that location in the first place.
Given the tablets can't even scroll through a list of movies without lagging and show everyone the same 2 minute Honda commercial before each movie despite already knowing who you are from your ID and frequent flyer number, I'd venture that the airlines haven't figured out how to do eye tracking yet.
So I guess, even in the worst case scenario where these cameras were recording you, what is so different from the other 500x camera FOVs you step into during your journey? What am I missing?
In terms of corporate espionage, our security tells us to never work on sensitive documents while on a plane as it's considered a "public space".
Really? I've never had that expectation. I consider it the same as sitting on a seat on a public transit bus or subway train.
I still think the airline should disclose when and how they're recording me, but an expectation of privacy? Nah.
Most people expect some level of privacy when sitting at their seat. This is not a general/overview cabin camera, this is literally a foot in front of you and pointed directly at your face.
I guess the whole controversy seems very knee-jerk and out of touch with the existing level of monitoring already on board the plane and in the airport.
You might reasonably expect a bouncer or a security guard at a concert to be overlooking a crowd. You wouldn't expect one assigned specifically to you breathing in front of your face.
That said, this is actually a time when physically occluding the camera makes sense.
Deployed since 2004 to look for camcorders. Disney tried out technology for recording audience engagement in a theater in 2017.  "We instrumented a 400 seat movie theater using four infra-red (IR) cameras and four IR illuminators placed above the projection screen. The cameras were outfitted with IR bandpass filters to remove the spill of visible light that reflected off the movie screen. The video was recorded at 12 frames per second with a resolution of 2750×2200 pixels. The resolution of faces ranged from 15×25 (back rows) to 40×55 (front rows). We collected over 150 viewings of 9 mainstream movies released in 2015 and 2016". They show graphs for laughing and smiling over time for Inside Out. So it works. Coming soon to a theater near you, probably.
Cinemark installed intensive surveillance of the concession stand. That's where the money is made. "The concessions people could look through every kids’ combo that was sold across a region and see whether they are actually attracting children or if they are trading down college-aged women who would’ve bought a larger size of all of those items if you didn’t have that meal option for them."
If I'm in an airline, I should have some say if there's going to be a camera facing me the ... entire ... flight. That goes beyond just the casual picture or video capture.
In the USA, it depends on jurisdiction and the circumstances. For example, CA is a "two-party consent" state, meaning that to record another party requires their knowledge and consent in some circumstances. This case (a camera in the back of an airline seat) is a bit on the line: the space isn't terribly private (it's a row of seats on an airline), yet a private conversation might be had in a low voice between two people, who did not see, or do not recognize, and were not told that there is a camera pointed right at them.
I do not know if this is a violation of two-party consent. It might not be.
IANAL, but AFAIK one/two party consent only applies to private conversations (eg. phone calls). Public conversations are fair game in all jurisdictions.
If their commercial purpose was internal to the company then a release wouldn't be required.
I'm an American. This likely isn't true in other countries with more stringent privacy laws.
That is an entirely realistic scenario, patents have been granted for this already. Regardless of an expectation of privacy it is potentially a terrible UX as well.
I mean, yeah, it's conceivable that someone could try that. It is also conceivable that it would fail miserably.
If you turn down your volume too much on your phone, it pauses the advert and demands to raise volume to continue.
Unlike "completely public spaces", it's not free to be on an airplane. You can vote with your wallet in this situation.
Since members of the general public are in close proximity I generally wouldn't consider an airplane cabin a place where I could have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
In places that are intentionally restricted from view by others, like my own home, a hotel room, etc. I'd have an expectation of privacy.
If I'm going to, say, a concert, or especially a taping of a TV show, I have a much higher expectation of ending up in some video footage. But people often sleep on planes. They're not expecting to be recorded.
Privacy is something I control by not exposing sensitive information in areas where recording is a possibility.
I already take precautions when flying by not working on my laptop or having sensitive conversations with family or coworkers.
I generally don't consider information on where my gaze is looking, facial expressions, or if I'm awake or asleep sensitive information unless I'm in a private space like my home, a hotel room, or a bathroom.
But aside from that, I'd posit that it's actually a very different thing to have a random passenger recording you (which is still gross) and the airline (which may be owned and operated by a foreign government, which is the case for most of the airlines in the Middle East and some in Asia), which has your name, your passport number, your birthdate, your address, and other very sensitive and identifying information on file.
One is creepy and uncool. The other could be flat-out surveillance. Especially since when you travel, the government data you give to the airlines isn't negotiable (meaning unless I'm flying domestic, I can't use a fake ID and name to travel (and even that would be against the law), I have to use my passport, my full name, my address, etc.
I'm not sure if they'd be able to extend that to someone recording me although it likely varies by country. I think British law considers continued recording a form of harassment where the same protections don't exist in America.
If I was really really bothered by it for some reason I might raise it once. The cabin crew has the safety of the flight and other responsibilities to be concerned with.
The problem is that this attitude will ultimately mean that the only place where you might have any chance of privacy is in your own home. And even there, privacy is getting more and more rare.
I fly a lot for work (I'm already at 67k miles flown for 2019 -- that's actual miles not airline miles (so that 67k is lower than my status miles)) and for anything over 6 hours or so, I fly business (unless I get an upgrade on a short-haul) and have had 6 flights over 10 hours this year, where I tend to have a lay flat bed and attempt to sleep. So I DO sleep on flights. Quite a bit (my flight to/from Australia was great, largely because I slept 9 of the 14 hours the first leg and 7 of the 13 hours the second).
I'd be just as freaked out if someone was recording me sleeping on an airplane in a ticket I paid $10k for as if I was when a hotel employee knocked once and then barged into my room in Sao Paulo back in December while I was changing into my pajamas. (And I was plenty mad at the WTC Sheraton for that!)
However my experience stems from two long haul flights in economy and a handful of domestic flights in the same class. If someone was recording me while I was sleeping there I'd treat it the same as if I was napping under a tree in a national park. I wouldn't be concerned.
If there aren't measures in place to prevent other members of the public from observing then I expect recording is a possibility.
In many business class seats, they are designed so that you cannot even see the person adjacent to you unless you specifically put your head out of the curved herringbone shell -- and that's when you're sitting. If you're laying flat, your head is completely obscured by the seat.
Delta and Qatar have doors on some of their business class seats.
People walking through the cabin can observe people sleeping, of course -- but these products are literally designed for sleeping and privacy. It's one of the reasons they charge such a premium for those tickets.
You're in public on an aircraft, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy. The people around you, including the airline's staff, can listen to your conversations/see you.
I'm not even arguing legally, even just in terms of common sense, everything you do or say is isn't private in those circumstances. So a camera being there (regardless of if it is used) isn't moving the needle either direction.
It's the difference between a neighbor, and a neighbor who is also an informant.
Plus you're contrasting the invasion of personal space, with the perception that a non-privacy space is now non-privacy.
But since the space was never private to being with has anything changed or has the airline just ruined your own fiction about the space?
It's not public in the fact that you cannot just legally waltz into somebody else's airplane without permission. You pay a company to manage the experience in the airplane within their powers. It is perfectly fine for consumers to question why a hitherto unspoken contract about cameras directly observing a passenger's seat has been broken, and the camera placed there entirely as a result of the plane's owners.
Now getting into ML. What are those cheap cameras we buy in Amazon going to be capable of in 10 years - auto-recording/notification options for: nose-picking, peeing, nipple flash/down-blouse/upskirt, screaming... IDENTIFYING people by name?
Beyond this, what about public places that are gender specific- bathrooms. Heck, we may even see bathroom stall camera's that aren't "watched" by anyone but ML - just for theft monitoring. If that happens we'll likely find out, yet again, that someone with eyes was watching after all.
I get that each generation doesn't really understand how it was in the past, and just pops up into whatever privacy shit we're doing today, but we just keep letting it slide.
My point is, the needle is moving with these small changes.
You already have a number of replies covering some good ground, but there is a word covering the feeling I don't see yet: stalking. There is a fundamental difference in feeling (and a legally recognized one as well) between being seen/heard a specific coincidental instances by a crowd of random strangers whom one might quite reasonably expect to never encounter again in their entire lives -versus- having a single person individual or organization conduct persistent surveillance of you. This isn't some weird obscure situation either is it? The uncomfortableness level seems to be pretty universal. The other unrelated passengers on the airplane are generally going to be an entirely random and diverse group of total strangers. They're unlikely to remember you, to care, or to have any particular interest in you, let alone the ability and volume of information necessary to affect you.
But the airliner is a singular entity, and in this instance it's actually fairly illuminating to apply the "personhood" idea to it and consider it as if a single powerful person was following you and recording you constantly. That person does have a direct economic interest in you, may wield a certain level of monopoly power depending on location, or alternately can easily potentially collaborate with a small number of other "persons" with your information. The person will not forget and can follow you over decades. They can do the same to friends, relatives and acquaintances, drawing inferences and information from higher level social network graphs that would not be discernible from a small given slice.
Now you might not care about this yourself, but you should still be able to recognize that it's something quite different then merely "being in public amongst instantiated strangers". Historically it has been perfectly reasonable from an information theory point of view to have a certain expectation of common likely "anonymity in a crowd", because it's not physically possible for a single human to remember tens of thousands of people. Historically when attempts have been made to use some minimal level of technology and large numbers of bodies to implement mass surveillance and centralized recording an analysis it has made people quite uncomfortable (the Stasi say). There is no reason why advancing technology making it cheaper and requiring less bodies would make people suddenly be fine with it would it?
Scale sometimes brings emergent effects that are a pure function of large numbers. You can't always do a clean extrapolation.
A shopping mall might be privately owned, but it's still a public space. Any place that is open to the general public is a public space.
We license people to be private investigators. They stalk around, take pictures, and otherwise spy on what they're paid to do within the confines of the law and their license. It costs people-time to do this.
Whereas we can blanket cameras everywhere, run facial recog, and do further analytics on the saved videos. It takes roughly 0 people-hours to operate that (setup costs time, but further requires none).
And remember Cardinal Richieu's (disputed) comment "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him."
Instead, give me a year's worth of footage..... How many felonies will you find?
Maybe you could argue that they would just be selectively enforced to remove people the state finds inconvenient. We could probably fix that legislatively by requiring a law to be enforced some high X% of times that the state becomes aware of it, because what's really the point of a law if it's ignored 99% of the time?
The thing is, technology doesn't just go away. Once something is invented, there's no uninventing it. So, we're going to have to figure out how to create a just world where public surveillance is ubiquitous.
The idea of privacy in terms of "don't look at me" is not something we do for its own sake. It exists to serve a purpose, whether that's to prevent embarrassment or prevent tyranny. We're going to need to find other ways to serve those purposes.
> How can you have privacy concerns in a completely public space?
One of the interns that I worked with left a week earlier than I did so he could have some R & R. That Monday, we all got an email from him that went something like, "Check out my WebCam!!!!"
I clicked on the link, and my screen was filled with a picture of him with his finger fully up his nose, picking a winner.
Would have been better if we saw the full booger.