Airlines to Block Porn Viewing Via Onboard Wi-Fi

Posted October 8, 2008 by Zak Patten

Technologyonboardlaptops It may have taken awhile to get off the ground (pun intended), but the dream of in-flight Wi-Fi is fast becoming a reality. Most of the major U.S. airlines—including American, Continental, Delta, JetBlue, and Virgin America—are now online in the skies to some degree. The only problem is: Airplanes are public places, and the Internet is chock-full of smut. But rest assured, the airlines are handling the situation in a balanced way.

Whatever prurient websites you may enjoy in the privacy of your own home is your business. But when you're innocently looking up soup recipes on your laptop in 18A and your neighbor in 18B is salivating on his keyboard, someone has to step in. With American and Delta both offering the Gogo service from Aircell, it's not surprising these two airlines have decided to ask Aircell to include porn-blocking software in Gogo. (Presumably the airlines are installing Wi-Fi on their planes to bring in extra revenue, so it would be interesting to see if any of the carriers is tempted to offer an "upgraded" service whereby the porn-blocking software is turned off. Only in first class, of course.) I'm assuming the other carriers will follow suit.

There's no word yet on what actions airlines will take to stop passengers from viewing illicit photos or videos stored on their hard drives, but my guess is flight attendants who see computers displaying such imagery will confiscate the offending machines faster than you can say "first amendment."

One issue lost in this debate is the privacy of those who aren't looking at dirty pictures. While some of the people surfing on the plane may want to share the contents of their computers with you, you may not want your fellow travelers watching you conduct online banking transactions or writing that break-up email to the person you just left behind at the airport.

I'd rate this latest move by airlines to maintain an air of civility in the cabin as neither too permissive nor too draconian. It won't be a cybercafe in Amsterdam's red-light district, but it won't be North Korea either.

(Photo: Mike Liu/iStockphoto)

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