Most of the following data points come from the well done and succinct CNN article, “Hundreds of motel guests were secretly filmed and live-streamed online,” 21 March 2019, by Sophie Jeong and James Griffiths.
- In security/military terms, the gang that set up covert cameras to record 1,600 people in 42 rooms in 30 hotels in 10 South Korean cities constitutes covert, hostile surveillance.
- Under US law, this would be considered invasion of privacy such as in the Erin Andrews case against a Marriott hotel in Nashville, as described by Deadline.com.
- The four-person gang that set up these devices (“ultra mini cameras with a 1-millimeter lens,” reports the Korea Herald), showed considerable surveillance tradecraft skills (“spy expertise”) that constituted checking into 30 hotels and expertly installing at least 42 secret cameras in hotel appliances. Statistically, this is four gang members each penetrating and setting up cameras in 7.5 hotels in 10 cities over a multi month period. This was an extensive and methodical criminal operation that would have made any seasoned spymaster proud had it been a state sponsored endeavor.
- Cases like this in South Korea are common. There were 6,400 instances of illegal filming in 2017 alone (not all in hotels; many were in public lavatories).
- The police have deployed lavatory inspection teams to mitigate this practice, and a similar remedy for hotels is likely.
- Penalties in South Korea for similar types of crimes can be, for example, four years in prison and payouts of $1.26 million – this from a revenge porn case. In the US, for the Erin Andrews case, the penalty was 2 1/2 years in jail for the perpetrator, plus a $55 million payout from him and hotel groups West End Hotel Partners and Windsor Capitol that were deemed negligent and/or complicit.
Hotels, then, need to add, where/when appropriate, counter surveillance (spotting and removing hidden cameras) to their risk reduction repertoire. Hotel guests intent on privacy should educate themselves on detecting surveillance technology in their hotel rooms as well. Various sites offer suggestions. See here, here, and here for starters.
Sources and further reading:
“Spy-cam recorded 1600 hotel guests for a pay porn site,” IOL.com, 25 March 2019.
“Hundreds of motel guests were secretly filmed and live-streamed online,” CNN, 21 March 2019.
“Two people arrested for spycam videos of 1,600 people,” Korea Herald, 20 March 2019.
“Erin Andrews Wins $55M In Hotel Peephole Lawsuit; Jury Blames Hotel & Stalker,” Deadline.com, 7 March 2016.
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