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Russian official says government has video surveillance of Sochi hotel room showers

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Sochi port
Sochi port

As journalists have started to flood into Sochi to cover the Olympic games, they've found that their accommodations are a bit rough around the edges. Reports range from broken heating units and dirty tap water to missing trash cans, but Sochi guests may have something more important to worry about than a hastily thrown-together hotel room: their own privacy. Dmitry Kozak, a Russian deputy prime minister in charge of preparations for the Olympics, mistakenly revealed during a press conference that at least some hotel guests are under video surveillance in their own bathrooms. "We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day," the official told members of the press, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Kozak was attempting to argue that foreign journalists were biased against Russia and were intentionally working to paint the Sochi games as a disaster. But in the process, he may have just spooked everyone assigned hotel rooms to attend the games. The Wall Street Journal reports that an aide quickly diverted the conversation and prevented any follow-up questions concerning bathroom video surveillance.

"We have surveillance video from the hotels..."

But such heavy-handed surveillance was expected in Sochi, which has turned into the most expensive Olympics of all. Terrorist threats are a top concern, and in response Russia has deployed a so-called "ring of steel" around the city to protect it. Reports recently said that part of the efforts include surveillance on athletes, journalists, and other guests, and it now seems that may include video cameras that keep tabs on visitors in their rooms. Considering other reports that Russian intelligence agencies have backdoor access to Wi-Fi connections, it will be hard to keep anything a secret in Sochi — even what you're singing in the shower.

Update: A spokesperson for Kozak has now offered another take on the Russian official's statement. The Wall Street Journal reports that the spokesperson says there is no surveillance of occupied hotel rooms or bathrooms. He suggests that the footage Kozak referred to was captured while the hotels were being built and cleaned in preparation for the games. It's unclear how or why a visitor would be inside a hotel room and turning on a shower during this period of time.