- WASHINGTON - Next time you
check into a hotel, you may want to consider asking if there are any hidden
cameras in your assigned room.
- There could be cameras hidden in mirrors, television
sets, lamps and even the radio alarm clock on your nightstand.
- "What? Hidden cameras in my hotel room? That's like
placing a hidden camera in my own home without my knowledge or consent.
Once I'm in my hotel room, I'm in my home away from home."
- That's your likely reaction.
- However, Fox News reports that at least two hotel chains
have bought that kind of security equipment. More than that may be involved.
In an interview with NewsMax.com, Arielle Jamil, director of public affairs
for Counter Spy Shops, specialty stores for high-tech spy equipment and
devices, did not dispute us when we asked if two hotel chains had bought
the spy gear.
- Two hotel chains? Which ones?
- "We don't disclose the names of our customers,"
replied Jamil, director of public affairs for the Counter Spy Shop chains.
- So why on earth would a hotel want to jeopardize customer
relations by risking the appearance of spying on its own guests?
- "They buy it for security reasons."
- Yes, but that same equipment that can be used for security
reasons can just as easily be used to spy on the hotel guest.
- "Oh, but they use it only to look into the room
at a time of the day when the guest is not there."
- You mean in midday when the maids are cleaning?
- "Maids, anyone else from housekeeping, engineering
if there's a mechanical problem that needs to be fixed." Hotels don't
want to be sued by guests who complain that something was stolen while
they were out.
- Okay, but how does the guest know that some voyeur on
the hotel staff won't use the equipment to peer in at a guest? And how
does the hotel always know when the customer is out for the day? Some hotel
guests keep odd hours.
- "Well, you know, we just sell the equipment. We
can't be responsible for whatever the buyers choose to do with it,"
Jamil responded. "It's the same thing with people who sell butcher
knives. They don't know if the customer is going to misuse it."
- True, there were those who wondered if the O.J. Simpson
case would spark a movement for knife control. But there is less temptation
for misuse of a butcher knife or a gun. That is why the gun-control movement
in this country has been on the defensive of late. Most folks don't want
to kill anybody. Putting spy equipment in the hands of a bored night clerk
raises all kinds of temptations.
- And another distinction: Killing people, of course, is
illegal. Spying on people through legally purchased spy or "security"
equipment is legal. That's right. There's no law preventing it, especially
if it's done in the name of "security."
- The Counter Spy Shops are owned by the CCS International
Inc., headquartered in New Rochelle, N.Y. Shops are in such far-flung locations
as New York City, Washington, Beverly Hills, Miami, Hong Kong, London and
- Its Web site advertises a wide variety of spy equipment.
- One ad says, "Who would suspect a video system to
be concealed within the functioning alarm clock radio? CCS presents the
most recent advancement in miniature surveillance technology Due to its
unique disguise, the camera can shoot pictures discretely even from close
- Near the picture of a lamp, there is this:
- "This hi-tech portable system allows you to monitor
in real time, your office, home, store, property, store, garage, or business
while you're away." Or hotel room?
- CCS says it has been in business since 1959. This is
an industry that apparently has been growing. CCS has competition for this
- Aimdiscount.com boasts "the best quality available
in Wireless Hidden Camera Systems" that are "so successful because
they appear to be everyday items."
- Among its advertised "everyday items" containing
cameras are an alarm clock radio, a smoke alarm, a wireless wall clock,
a picture frame, a lamp, an artificial plant basket, a night light, and
even a "wireless tissue box."
- Jamil of CCS told NewsMax that the company has many different
kinds of customers.
- Government agencies?
- "Lots," she replied.
- That is already universally suspected.
- But when you question your privacy in, of all places,
your own hotel room, you might think of William Raspberry's recent column
in the Washington Post saying that as far as privacy is concerned, the
horse is out of the barn.
- NewsMax.com, however, will not throw up its hands and
give up this fight. Americans are entitled to the privacy they have come
to expect. If you lose all privacy, you have crossed the line from a republic
to a police state.
- Posted by permission of NewsMax.com http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2001/7/20/171557.shtml