A jury has found that the hotel in which Erin Andrews was staying was 49% at fault for her being recorded through a peephole. The remaining 51% was attributed to the person who did the recording. This story isn’t one that I had much interest in until reading the verdict. I was interested to some degree because I have traveled a lot for work in the past and stayed in a lot of hotel rooms and wondered about the relative security of the rooms. I have felt relatively secure but also know that it’s different for me as a man than it would be for a woman. Also, there were claims that the hotel enabled this to happen somehow through adjoining rooms and that stuck out to me because I have had my fair share of noise coming from the closed door to an adjoining room and wondered if there was any security issue with it. So when the verdict came in saying that the hotel was nearly half to blame, I wanted to know more about what it is they did wrong. And frankly, after reading the details of the case, I’m not sure how the jury got to 49%.
The guy who did the recording, who I shall refer to as The Creep (no need to use his actual name), actually detailed exactly what happened. And that matches the victim’s account of things too. So the facts aren’t really in question. The Creep wanted to check in to the room next to Andrews and asked to do that at the front desk. He was denied information about her room. So he went to a house phone and asked to be connected to her room. The lobby phone that The Creep was using then showed the number of the room on the phone’s display when he was put through. He hung up and went back to the front desk to ask for a specific room. At the time, no room near Andrews was available so he took the elevator up to her room and scoped out what rooms were there. He discovered the one next to her was just finished being cleaned so he returned to the front desk and asked for that room. After checking with the cleaning crew, the front desk was able to put him in the room next to Andrews.
At this point, the hotel seems guilty of just one thing – The Creep getting Andrews’s room number. The thing is that they didn’t give up the room number intentionally. That was a technology leak. And I have to say I’m impressed that The Creep knew to do that – it isn’t the kind of thing most people would think to do. As for honoring The Creep’s request for a specific room, that doesn’t seem wrong at all. I know that if I went to a hotel and asked for a specific room, I wouldn’t expect the hotel to deny my request because I might be stalking somebody. I’d expect them to honor the request, if possible, because the guest had the preference for any number of legit reasons. (Previously stayed in that room, likes rooms that face a certain direction, good sunrise/sunset view, proximity to fire escape, etc..)
Now with The Creep next door to Andrews, did he modify the adjoining room door or do something to the wall? No, actually the video recording had nothing to do with his room’s proximity. Before Andrews had returned to her room, he was able to remove the peephole unit from her door and modify it so it could later be removed. Now this seems to be the place the hotel is the most culpable, in my opinion. Just like door knobs can’t be removed from the outside, peepholes shouldn’t be able to be removed from the outside either. What kind of lame peephole was this? Or was it installed backwards?
The only thing the room proximity helped with was that he could listen and for her to be in a compromising position which he determined by simply listening for a shower running. That isn’t too hard to figure out. Anyone who has stayed in a hotel knows that you can hear water running in other rooms around you. And while modern PEX plumbing might be quieter, older copper plumbing does that. No fault of the hotel here.
With a modified peephole and knowing that water was running, The Creep just stood at Andrews’s room door with the camera lens pointing through where the peephole had been. Pretty straightforward at this point.
The Creep shows up to the hotel knowing already that Andrews is staying there. He knows he can use the lobby phone to get her room number. He came equipped with the equipment he needed, including a hacksaw to remove the peephole. The hotel leaked the room number through a lobby phone accidentally and installed some lame peephole that could be removed from the outside of a door. And I still think the room number leak is somewhat minor when you consider that somebody who was as well-prepared as The Creep could have just followed Andrews to her room one time and gotten the same information.
My conclusion is that the hotel was somewhat responsible. Primarily for a bad peephole unit and secondarily for making things easier for The Creep with the leak of the room number. But 49%? The Creep came armed with tools and information and a plan – to me that far exceeds the 51% blame. I’d give the hotel 15% or 20% blame at most.
Personally, I’m going to pay more attention to peepholes now. And it is interesting to me that the hotel I stayed in a few weeks ago had a peephole cover on the inside. I remember thinking it was a new thing to me and wondered why it was there. After reading about this case, I know why it was there. And I’m going to think more highly of hotels that do have peephole covers. (And maybe I’ll ask the front desk for tape if there is no peephole cover.)
On the other hand, the reality is that a camera could be in a vent or in a wall or really anywhere now. And Andrews saying that she looks for red lights to indicate recording cameras is a bit naive since those red lights could be easily disabled by anyone with the smarts to get a camera in hidden locations. Reading this story has made me feel less comfortable for future hotel visits. And sad for humanity that people’s privacy can be invaded so easily by somebody who appears to be an average guy – not some superspy.