Two U.S. senators have fired off a letter to the eight
largest U.S. airlines, seeking information on whether the carriers use cameras
installed in entertainment systems to monitor passengers.
In the March 18 letter, Democrat Jeffrey Merkley of Oregon
and Republican John Kennedy of Louisiana asked for a response from the carriers
within 30 days. The letter was sent to the CEOs of United, American, Delta,
Southwest, JetBlue, Alaska, Frontier and Spirit. It follows on the heels of a
February revelation that the latest versions of entertainment systems manufactured by Panasonic Avionics are equipped with cameras.
United, Delta and American are among the carriers that have
those systems on some aircraft, but each say they have never enabled the
cameras, which were included in the Panasonic Avionics system as a standard
feature. For its part, Panasonic issued a statement in February stating that
the cameras won’t be used without explicit knowledge of airline passengers. The
company said the cameras have been included in the systems to support future
potential applications, such as seat-to-seat video conferencing.
Among the airlines that senators’ addressed, Southwest,
Frontier and Spirit don’t have seatback entertainment systems.
Merkley and Kennedy asked the airlines if they use or have
ever used cameras or sensors to monitor passengers. The letter also includes a
series of follow-up questions in the case of a “yes” answer that
relate to the extent of usage and to privacy-related issues.
Neither senator sits on the Senate Committee on Commerce,
Science and Transportation.
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