Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Skype on a Plane? Please Don’t.

More and more airlines are adding in-flight wireless, which means you can now Twitter from 30,000 feet. Go ahead and tell your friendsover and over and over.

But while it’s technically possible to use that same technology to Skype with your friends or families or whomever, airlines won’t let you do it.

The reason should be self-evident, but not to Federated Media’s John Battelle. Who apparently does this all the time.

Except on a flight this week, when a United Airlines attendant told him that using Skype in flight is a security violation.

That’s not true. But with the help of the Web–and, apparently, State Department employee Katie J. Stanton–Battelle pieces it together: Airlines ban in-flight video chat because it’s incredibly annoying for everyone who’s not chatting.

Or in Federal Aviation Administration-speak, the airlines are “simply responding to the overwhelming majority of their customers, who prefer silent communications to the public nature of Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) calls.”

Battelle insists his Skype chats provoke nothing but “amusement” from his seatmates. But my hunch is that it’s only dumb luck that has kept him from getting pummeled by a fellow passenger to date. That United attendant did him a real favor.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik