In October of last year, a couple from Northern Florida went on a three-day cruise on the Carnival Fantasy out of Mobile. On the last evening of the cruise, to their shock and horror, they discovered a small video camera hidden in the bundled cables, behind the television in their cabin, which pointed toward their bed.
A photo of a cabin similar to cabin U160 on the Fantasy (middle, right) shows the television in the corner of the cabin.
The camera was wired to a transmitter and both devices were powered from the television power cable. The couple became concerned that video images of them undressed had been transmitted, recorded and viewed by others and possibly uploaded to the internet. They were especially fearful that images of their 10 year-old child dressing and undressing in the cabin were also transmitted, recorded and viewed by others.
The couple immediately reported the presence of the camera and transmitter in their cabin to the cruise ship’s security department. One of Carnival’s security personnel arrived in their cabin. He disconnected and removed the camera and transmitter with no gloves on and did not attempt to secure the room. In the video below, you can hear the passenger asking the officer why he was not wearing gloves.
The passenger thereafter communicated with the security staff to obtain an update. According to the passengers, the Carnival security personnel confirmed that the camera and transmitter: (1) were operational; (2) were typically the type of devices used on video drones: and (3) the transmitter was a long range device.
Carnival did not promptly report the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The passenger learned that Carnival notified the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), although the CBP told the concerned passenger that it had no jurisdiction over the matter and it took no action. The passenger notified the FBI after the cruise ended.
The passengers have heard absolutely nothing from Carnival about these troubling circumstances after returning from the cruise. After two months, they contacted my office and I sent a letter to Carnival asking for an explanation.
The passengers did not seek any type of compensation but were concerned that the Carnival security team did not properly investigate the incident, did not properly preserve the cabin and the video and transmitter therein and, in fact, spoliated this evidence, and failed to timely report the circumstances described above to the FBI as required by law. They remain concerned that they were not the only victims of this secret recording and transmitting equipment, placed in their cabin on the Carnival cruise ship, and that other Carnival guests had their privacy invaded.
18 U.S. Code § 1801 (“Video Voyeurism”) states that it is a crime to have “the intent to capture an image of a private area of an individual without their consent . . .” (and the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy). The term “capture” is defined as “to videotape, photograph, film, record by any means, or broadcast” and the term “broadcast” means to “electronically transmit a visual image with the intent that it be viewed by a person or persons.”
In a statement to the Miami New Times, which covered the disturbing incident, a Carnival PR representative claimed that the recording and transmitting equipment were allegedly “not operational.” But that’s not what the passenger recalls hearing on the ship. It begs the question why Carnival didn’t communicate with the family after they returned home from the cruise and why the cruise line ignored our request for an explanation. Of course, the presence of the recording and transmitting equipment shows an intent to record and transmit, which is clearly a crime.
Carnival disassembled the devices without permitting the FBI or the local police conduct an investigation. In addition to the federal statute, Alabama has a state statute similar to 18 U.S. Code § 1801. The state statute would apply to any intent to secretly record and transmit images within the state territorial waters of Alabama.
How long had this spy equipment been installed in cabin U 160 on the Carnival Fantasy, how many other passengers in this cabin have been videotaped in the past, and how many passengers have been videotaped on other cruise ships?
Carnival Cruise Line’s Response
Carnival did not respond to the passenger’s request for information about the spy camera. It initially ignored our office and eventually stated that it turned the device over to the FBI, but only after the passenger notified the FBI. It claims that the device was not operational, notwithstanding the passenger’s observation that there was power to the device and the camera was warm to the touch. More recently, Carnival began disputing that a camera was even located in the cabin, although it is clearly shown in the photos above and in the video below.
We can all debate whether Carnival intentionally spoliated the evidence, or whether this was the result of the gross negligence of the ill-trained, bumbling security officer, but the result is the same – Carnival prevented law enforcement from examining the devices in their original condition in order to learn whether images of the family had been captured and transmitted to others, probably a crew member with access to the cabin who could have installed the spy ware. Carnival belated claim to the press that the device was “non operational” should be obvious at this point after Carnival disassembled the devices and disconnected them from their power sources.
Advice to Future Passengers
I’ll repeat advice which I have given many times on this blog to families who cruise – watch your kids and watch your drinks. Realize that cruise ships are just floating hotels, where crimes can occur just like on land, but without an independent police force which will preserve evidence and be concerned with arresting the bad guys. And from this moment onward, I will always advise families who cruise on Carnival to look out for hidden spy cameras and the perverts who operate them.
Have a comment? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Photo credit: Carnival Fantasy cabin (similar to cabin U160) – cruiseline.com