Cybersecurity expert and NYU professor Justin Cappos says the security breach that compromised the information of as many as 500 million guests shows that Marriott’s Starwood hotels simply did not care about customer security and privacy. (Nov. 30) AP
She’s accusing the hotel chain of negligence, saying it allowed the suspect, who has not yet been precisely identified, access to her personal information.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told “Good Morning America” the hidden-camera recording took place during her July 2015 stay at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Albany. However, she says she wasn’t aware of the tape’s existence until September of this year when she received an email with a link to a porn site.
The same day, she received another email from the same address demanding she provide more nude footage of herself if she didn’t want the video published along with her name and job information.
“My initial reaction was, ‘Your life is absolutely ruined, people are going to see this, they are going to see you naked and they are going to assume things,’ ” she told GMA.
According to ABC News, the lawsuit quoted some of the emails from the blackmailer, who allegedly wrote, “I’m a perv. I don’t hurt anyone. I like to watch. No need to worry about me. I just like to watch and then I move on to the next. Promise me my own show. That’s the hottest. No need to show your face. Then I disappear and remove the videos forever before they get copied on every website.”
When she didn’t comply, the video was circulated to some of her colleagues along with a new demand: $2,000 up front and $1,000 a month for the following year.
“It was just absolutely traumatizing because these are people I went to law school with,” she recalled. “They’re friends, they’re coworkers. And they were sent a link to what looks like an email I sent.”
Since then, the woman told the morning show that she’s had to search online for the video to request its removal. She estimates it’s been posted on at least a dozen sites.
She says that every time he republished it, he posted her full name, humiliating her all over again. “It’s sadistic, and it’s designed to terrorize me and force me into a place where I feel like I have to give into his demands and give him more photos or give him money. He did this so that whenever someone googles me, they’re going to see this.”
The story also noted that the woman believes she wasn’t the only guest recorded in that room.
In a statement, Hilton told USA TODAY the company was not aware of the alleged breach of privacy until this week.
“On Monday, December 3rd, we were alerted by ABC News to details of an alleged incident at the Hampton Inn and Suites Albany-Downtown in 2015,” it read. “We take the safety and well being of our guests incredibly seriously, and find the details included in the civil filing distressing. We commit to supporting the independent ownership and management of the property as they investigate, respond, and cooperate with any law enforcement investigations.”
In a statement to USA TODAY on Wednesday, a representative for the Albany Hampton Inn and Suites said they planned to work with law enforcement to find and punish the suspect but noted no evidence had been discovered yet.
“We were shocked and stunned to learn of the allegations raised in the complaint,” it said. “The safety and security of our guests is our highest priority, and we emphatically do not condone any form of this type of invasion of privacy. Thus far, no evidence of any kind has been found during our initial review of the situation.”
The statement also noted that “recently, the hotel underwent a complete renovation. During that process, no recording devices of any kind were uncovered. We will continue to work with the authorities to discover the perpetrator and see that s/he is held accountable.”
USA TODAY has also sought comment from the woman’s attorney.