No, you’re not being paranoid.
Four individuals have been arrested for a scheme allegedly involving spy cams in 42 motel rooms across South Korea and the livestreaming of up to 1,600 unwitting guests. The intended audience, however, was much larger than just those four — a website broadcast the videos to its over 4,000 members, at least some of whom paid for access.
So reports the Korean Herald, which notes that the hidden IP cameras had 1-millimeter lenses and were installed in TVs, power outlets, and other seemingly innocuous hotel room fixtures. The paper adds that, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency’s cyber investigation unit, the scheme reached 30 different motels in 10 cities across the country.
“The police agency strictly deals with criminals who post and share illegal videos as they severely harm human dignity,” the aforementioned Seoul police unit said in a statement to the paper.
While some details are light, like how police first learned of this creep show, we do know a few disturbing facts. The secret filming is said to have taken place between Nov. 24 of last year and March 2, meaning that this was ongoing until just a few weeks ago. The website in question, which the paper did not name, is said to be hosted outside of the country.
Ninety-seven people reportedly purchased over 800 of the videos, generating the site operators roughly $6,200. Those running the website, if found guilty, could face up to five years in prison.
Notably, this is not the first case of hidden cameras found in hotels or Airbnbs — although the scale of this effort and the paid customer element really drives up the ick factor.
In “oh, that’s a thing now” news, a colleague of mine thought it odd that there was a single “motion detector” in his AirBNB in the bedroom and voila, it’s an IP camera connected to the web. (He left at 3am, reported, host is suspended, colleague got refund.) pic.twitter.com/6KgkDmEZXB
— Jason Scott (@textfiles) November 28, 2017
Smaller, seemingly one-off examples have made news in recent years in the U.S. ABC Action News reported in October of 2017 that a couple staying in a Florida Airbnb discovered a hidden camera in a smoke detector directly above their bed, and in January of this year a man claimed to discover multiple hidden cameras in his Miami Airbnb.
With the proliferation of both unmonitored Airbnbs and smaller, cheaper cameras, this problem likely isn’t going away anytime soon. So take a second look at those weird smoke detectors and clocks the next time you check in for an overnight stay, because as this privacy-violating news goes to show, being paranoid just means you’re paying attention.