A Chicago woman is suing Hilton Worldwide for R1.4bn saying that she was filmed naked in the shower by a hidden camera while a hotel guest.
– in footage uploaded with her name onto multiple porn sites.
The unnamed plaintiff sued the hotel giant for negligence citing "severe and permanent psychological injuries", "severe mental anguish, emotional distress and other damages" such as medical expenses and loss of earnings.
The woman was a guest at a Hampton Inn and Suites hotel in Albany, the capital of New York state, in July 2015 while taking a bar exam after graduating from law school.
She was recorded, fully nude, while taking a shower by a hidden video camera, the 19-page lawsuit claims.
But she was blissfully ignorant until September 2018, more than three years later, when she received an email saying "this is you right?" with a link to the video on a porn site published with her full name.
The same person, claiming "I'm a perv", then sent multiple threatening emails, professing to know where she went to university and where she worked.
When the threats went unheeded, the video appeared on a string of other porn sites. Colleagues, friends and former classmates received a new version of the video, sent from a fake email address set up in her name.
The extortionist then demanded an immediate hush payment of $2 000 followed by $1 000 a month for a year, the lawsuit claims, also alleging that other people were recorded in the same room at the same Hampton Inn.
Hotel 'shocked, stunned'
"We take the safety and well-being of our guests incredibly seriously, and find the details included in the civil filing distressing," said a spokesperson for Hilton, the parent company of Hampton Inn.
"We commit to supporting the independent ownership and management of the property as they investigate, respond and cooperate with any law enforcement investigations," the statement added.
A spokesperson for the Hampton Inn in question said they were "shocked and stunned to learn of the allegations" late Monday, saying that no recording devices "of any kind" had been discovered at the property.
"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," the property said in a statement.
"Recently, the hotel underwent a complete renovation. During that process, no recording devices of any kind were uncovered," it added, promising to work with authorities to find and hold accountable the perpetrator.
Locally, retailer Woolworths came under fire for seemingly having CCTV cameras in its change rooms at a KwaZulu-Natal shopping centre. In November, Woolworths shopper Sonal Madhoo posted a picture on Woolworths' Facebook page, saying: "Hey WOOLWORTHS, what's up with the cameras in the fitting rooms of your Pavilion Shopping Centre store? Are you usually in the business of invading the privacy of your customers?"
Woolworths head of communications Kirsten Hewett told IOL that the cameras were fixed and only focused on the entrance of the fitting rooms in order to "review process".
"These cameras are installed in such a way that it is not possible to see into the cubicles," Hewett reportedly said.