September 25, 2002
5:45 PM   Subscribe

Do you plan to stay at a Marriott hotel any time soon? If so, you might want to relieve yourself in the dark since a spy cam was found in a Marriott hotel's bathroom lighting fixture and connected to the same circuit so as to turn on with the lights.
posted by David Dark (24 comments total)

 
I wonder how that got there? Since the camera was tagged with the corresponding room number, it would seem logical that every bathroom in the hotel houses a neat little hidden camera. Warms your heart, doesn't it?
posted by David Dark at 5:48 PM on September 25, 2002


That's fucking scary. Why would they need cameras in the washrooms? I can't think of ANY legitimate reason.
posted by mckayc at 6:02 PM on September 25, 2002


The lawsuit contends that Brewer has suffered harm as a result of the discovery.

I sympathize with the guy for probably getting videotaped while taking a... umm... #2, and though I generally disagree with a lot of lawsuits, I think he is due some compensation for his improvised acting gig.

But isn't it enough to sue for that? Does he have to bring in the "suffered harm" card? Slipping down in the tub and cracking your tail bone is "suffering harm." Being videotaped by someone who obviously didn't see it -- unless it was the sheriff's camera -- is not "suffering harm."

If it was the sheriff's camera, now that would be a whole new, interesting twist.
posted by mychai at 6:05 PM on September 25, 2002


The guys descent into paranoia is the most interesting part of the story. Reminds me of the last scene in Coppola's The Conversation
posted by stbalbach at 6:08 PM on September 25, 2002


I can't think of ANY legitimate reason

Is the article clear that Marriott owned the camera or was it a former guest leftover.
posted by stbalbach at 6:10 PM on September 25, 2002


It's fairly clear that Marriott owned the cameras as Marriott's manager showed him the videotape of him in the washroom but refused to give him the tape.
posted by mckayc at 6:21 PM on September 25, 2002


Yeah, the whole "suffers paranoia, fears to travel" card is ridiculous The lawyer forgot the "dizziness, loss of potency, insomnia, constant headaches, hair loss, loss of hearing in one ear, hearing satanic voices...etc." I certainly think that if it can be proven that Marriott knew about the videotaping, Brewer should be compensated, but I guess they have to drag in the personal pain and suffering to get the big bucks.

I remember that years ago Motel 6 was sued for the same reason.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:27 PM on September 25, 2002


mckayc: It is not so clear to me. The article just says that the employees, let Brewer view the tape in their presence but refused to give it to him. That doesn't necessarily mean the tape belonged to them. If I was a desk clerk and this situation came up, I would do the same thing. I would say we should wait for the police so the evidence can be turned over to them.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:32 PM on September 25, 2002


Perhaps a leftover from a drug sting? That might explain the call to the sheriff, maybe. Still a lot of questions arise from the direct call to the sheriff.

*wild speculation*
Maybe the sheriff and the manager have a voyeurism web site going and it's easy free footage.
*/wild speculation*
posted by Nauip at 6:34 PM on September 25, 2002


OK, everybody download scat footage off kazaa for evidence!
posted by goethean at 6:46 PM on September 25, 2002


SLOG: Yeah, the whole "suffers paranoia, fears to travel" card is ridiculous

But don't forget, he broke a light fixture while trying to eradicate a tiny black spot -- not an easy accomplishment for the calm and collected.

Nauip: Maybe the sheriff and the manager have a voyeurism web site going and it's easy free footage.

Don't bother with bryanbrewer.com, it's not very exciting.
posted by eddydamascene at 6:46 PM on September 25, 2002


while i can't imagine being upset by a hidden camera, and i understand that there's an obvious incentive to lie, please don't discount completely the chance that this guy is indeed paranoid. a couple of years ago i went through a short patch (a week or so) of paranoia, caused by nothing more serious than the stress of moving house and having an argument with some kids in the street. in retrospect it was rather odd, but at the time it was pretty unpleasant (the best bit was when i started to get better and could being to see that i was being irrational - there was a definite moment when the world shifted back to normal and the pressure suddenly lifted).

i don't claim it can happen to anyone - maybe i'm already high risk for some reason - but it can happen, and, apparently, for fairly trivial reasons.

ps apart from the dust, the story is also consistent with this guy installing the camera himself and then getting worried when he broke the fixture...
posted by andrew cooke at 6:56 PM on September 25, 2002


Those damn little cameras are a true menace - I expect we'll be hearing more about bizarre legal wrangles and invasion of privacy from a variety of sources.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:58 PM on September 25, 2002


Ooooo, I see it now! He has a whole bookcase filled with videotapes of his own bad self going wee-wee all over America. "And here's me again, brushing my teeth in Sandusky..."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:02 PM on September 25, 2002


It seems unlikely that Tennessee has an actual statute that makes it illegal for privately run hotels to videotape their customers going to the bathroom. In absence of a statute, you have to rely on a tort claim, which requires proof of injury to be successful. thus, the necessity of claiming paranoia, hair loss, etc.

i don't really see a problem with the claim of emotional harm. sure, it may be a little exaggerated, but what the hotel did was clearly wrong, so until we actual get some decent privacy laws in this country, the tort system is the only choice for people that have been abused in this way. If it really is a policy of the hotel to videotape people in the bathroom, a nice big damage award is a sure way to get them to change their policy.
posted by boltman at 7:07 PM on September 25, 2002


If the hotel didn't own the camera, if it was a remnant of a sting, then there would be no reason for it to be actively recording now. Even if the sting were current, there's no reason for there to be a camera which automatically films when the lights goes on when the guest registered in the room is not the target of any kind of investigation. I don't believe for a moment that the camera was installed by law enforcement. It was functional and sending data to a recorder to which staff had access, and that is a pretty definitive indication of hotel control, if not an outright proof of ownership and intent to surveil their customers in extremely private quarters and circumstances. The idea is abhorrent.

It's easy to presume that this guy is going over the top with his claim of harm, but we don't know him or the issues he walked into that hotel with. The camera wasn't discovered on check in; chances are that this guy watched the tape and saw that he had been filmed using the toilet, the shower, moving around naked, engaging in ablutions and routines which are no one's business. It wasn't his home, but he had a reasonable expectation that in a closed room where he was alone, he would have privacy. The hotel sneakily, senselessly, needlessly overrode that expectation and in the process, hurt this guy's mind. It's not farfetched, not at all.

A couple of weeks ago, I received notification that I had won a piddling discount on my next stay at Embassy Suites because I had stayed in one at a time when some hotels were not properly applying discounts due to frequent guests through their affinity program. I can only hope that everyone who stayed in that room (and any others which are discovered to have been similarly spied upon) end up with a far nicer package of remuneration for this egregious invasion.
posted by Dreama at 7:53 PM on September 25, 2002


...like towels.
posted by trioperative at 8:10 PM on September 25, 2002


Anyone stupid enough to want to watch me taking a crap...deserves go blind...
posted by ruggles at 8:26 PM on September 25, 2002


why? to try to catch some juicy action ofcourse. or some pervert who actually has to resort to ppl dropping their pants to sit on the toilet to see anyone without their pants on. my guess is trying to catch some hot shower action.

regardless of why... i always liked marriott...so that is too bad. can't trust anybody.

i hope no one puts a camera in a room i am in, and if they do, i hope i find it so i can sue someone...
posted by prescribed life at 8:37 PM on September 25, 2002


This incident is an example of what has long been one of my persistent irrational fears.

It was functional and sending data to a recorder to which staff had access, and that is a pretty definitive indication of hotel control, if not an outright proof of ownership and intent to surveil their customers in extremely private quarters and circumstances. ... The hotel sneakily, senselessly, needlessly overrode that expectation [of privacy] and in the process, hurt this guy's mind.

The article said that the video taping unit was self-contained. I think they got the tape out when they extracted the camera itself. There is no reason to believe that the Marriott had installed this as official business. I suspect it was someone who worked in housekeeping. That's the only way a person could have installed it & then periodically gotten the tapes out.
posted by captain obvious at 9:09 PM on September 25, 2002


I'd be willing to bet that the individual who installed the camera was NOT a female interested in watching men sitting naked on a toilet. No, I rather suspect it was a male who installed the camera and was hoping to see naked women. I doubt there is any other explanation for the camera--why would the camera be numbered, and why would it be placed in the bathroom if the feds were hoping to nail a suspected drug dealer? No, no...I'm totally seeing a Norman Bates-type perv with a knowledge of electrical wiring and, possibly, taxidermy. Oh but who cares what *really* happened when these great conspiracy theories abound? For instance, I'm a bit suspicious of Dreama's comment...notice how she conspicuously mentions her recent stay in a hotel...though she's careful not to mention whether or not she's a frequent guest, she does mention she's receiving a discount on her *next* visit...meaning she could strike again at any time.

Oh, and another thing--I can totally see how this guy could suffer emotional harm. As a completely paranoid and neurotic individual, this kind of experience could put me in an institution (again). As it is, I inspect every inch of any hotel room I stay in AND I periodically inspect my own house for signs of tampering. After all, I live in the same state as...whoops, nevermind.
posted by Zulujines at 9:24 PM on September 25, 2002


Uh, I'm with mckayc: that's fucking scary.

Is this a gender thing or a personal thing? I had several (ultimately harmless) stalkers when I was younger; I remain a bit high-strung about my privacy still. I don't like being watched. Something like this would scare me back to taking Xanax and sleeping with pepper spray in hand.
posted by swerve at 9:56 PM on September 25, 2002


First, the legal situation: In most states, there are longstanding wiretap laws, which in the case of videotaping have frequently been ruled to prevent audio recording but not video. This has prompted many states to create new statutes for videotape invasion of privacy -- but as the Portland case shows, the situation is still spotty. Second, it is generally perfectly legal to videotape anywhere on your own property, though hotel customers would have a higher expectation of privacy having paid for their rooms. Third, the hotel industry is under increasing pressure to provide intense, and monitored, video surveillance of public areas. Monitored is important because in a lot of cases cameras aren't actually being watched, they're only providing evidence for investigations.

Which brings us to this case. What it calls to mind is Donald Trump, several years ago, showing off one of his hotel's security operations on a national magazine show (Primetime, maybe). He showed the reporter around the penthouse suite, including the tiny video cameras hidden in lamps and other innocuous items. Was it so his horny security men could watch Julia Roberts flounce around in her underwear? No, it was so his security men could watch the room in the customer's absence to make sure that none of the staff pilfered her expensive belongings. Trump confidently assured the reporter that they would never snoop on the guests. Take that for what it's worth, I guess.

This is probably the reason behind the camera. Perhaps they had a history of employee theft they were trying to stamp out; less likely, perhaps, they were using it to keep evidence of towel theft or vandalism by customers. It sounded to me like the camera wasn't going to some central room, in this case (key words: "self-contained"), but rather just running a continuous loop as in a convenience store that could be reviewed later in the event of a problem.

Indeed, it's long been recognized that the greatest security threat to guests in a hotel (and the hospitality industry in general) isn't some smelly vagrant wandering in and sneaking around -- it's the employees themselves, who have access to secure areas and knowledge of the security systems, personnel, and operations. Insider theft is a huge problem, especially for expensive high-tech equipment like laptops -- though cell phones, PDAs, MP3 players, and the like are probably even easier to steal quickly and unnoticed.
posted by dhartung at 11:18 PM on September 25, 2002


Yeah Dan, I see: this rash of toilet thefts is getting out of hand!
posted by drinkcoffee at 4:59 AM on September 26, 2002


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