Airlines may soon be tracking your inflight entertainment choices, whether you’re sending emails, and what websites you visit inflight.
The CEO of Thales USA, which offers inflight entertainment systems, gave a presentation talking about the privacy issues that airlines will need to confront given the new technologies at their disposal.
Part of a video presentation during a briefing Thales USA CEO Alan Pellegrini gave journalists this week caught my eye. It was an animated overview of an aircraft cabin. Labels showed what passengers in various seats were doing. The passenger in one seat, say 8A, was sending emails. The passenger in another seat was watching a specific movie, and so on. With more sophisticated, Internet-enabled IFE systems being installed on aircraft—and passengers able to connect their own mobile devices to onboard Wi-Fi and IFE provided by carriers—airlines more and more will be able to know and track exactly what a passenger is doing while flying.
Of course, Thales is neutral in all of this. They “won’t be collecting and storing any of this information. But it will be an “enabler” to allow airlines to track and gather such information.”
American Airlines Inflight Entertainment, Boeing 737
Since he’s selling the technology, he sees it as a positive:
- Airlines would be able to know your viewing habits, and make personalized recommendations — the way that Amazon and Netflix do. With thousands of choices loaded to an inflight entertainment system, you might spend a ton of the flight searching for what you want to watch. Or just let the airline pick. (I suspect for many it’s a good time-waster, makes the flight seem to go faster, to invest in searching through the options.)
- They may want access to your calendar, too. For your own good.
“How do I treat this passenger who has flown 2 million miles? Maybe it’s giving him a conference room in an airport lounge because you know he’s going to miss a meeting” based on having access to the passenger’s Outlook calendar.
American Boeing 787 Moving Map
Soon enough we may have to start looking for (possibly obscure, difficult to find) opt-out screens. Most people won’t, in general people don’t like the idea of corporations tracking them but don’t take steps to stop it, suggesting that in fact they don’t really mind so much.
Do you trust Delta, American, and United to log your viewing habits or to access your Google or Outlook calendar? What if it saves you time, or means they can offer special accommodations?