More Airbnb hosts caught recording their guests with hidden cameras

More Airbnb hosts caught recording their guests with hidden cameras

CultureDecember 11, 2017 By Lindsey Kline

The guest was in for a shock.

That wasn’t a “motion detector” in the bedroom of his Airbnb — it was a camera hooked up to the internet.

This man wasn’t the first to discover a hidden camera in the private spaces of his Airbnb. Over the last few years, many hosts have been caught surveilling the intimate activities of their renters.

For example, just a couple months ago, there was the Florida couple who discovered a camera disguised as a smoke detector pointed directly at their bed. The host, who’d been renting out his Tampa Bay home for two years, was saving footage of guests to a SD drive for later viewing.

In 2015, eight people renting an Airbnb for New Year’s celebrations in Montreal found three security cameras around the apartment, including one right next to the bed. The renters claimed “at least two” of them were caught naked on camera.

Then, a woman sued Airbnb after discovering a hidden camera installed in the living room of her California rental. The woman and her partner (who worked in IT) figured out that the little light emitted from the book shelf came from a remote-controlled camera being directed around to capture better angles.

In response to these disturbing cases, the company adopted an official policy on electronic surveillance, prohibiting hosts from putting cameras in private spaces — areas like bathrooms, where people might want to poop without supervision, or bedrooms, where couples might want to act out their favorite “My Little Pony” porn scenes without outsiders critiquing their performance.

The company’s policy states that cameras can be placed in other areas of the rental, as long as the hosts “disclose all surveillance devices in their listings.” If hidden cameras aren’t disclosed, hosts could face penalties or have their listings deleted.

But it seems that might be the worst punishment the company can threaten. Whether or not it’s legal to record your guests’ activities is a bit murky; it depends a lot on where you live, and what an average person around you might consider “public” versus “private” spaces.

Landlords can’t legally film their tenants. Hotels can’t record their guests. But because anyone is free to set up surveillance equipment in their own home, many users aren’t confident that their Airbnb hosts are held to the same strict standards.

Experts have written guides about how to uncover hidden cameras in your Airbnb rental, from using your phone’s camera light to spot the reflection from a lens, to buying a device that scans for cameras connected to the WiFi network.

Of course, even Airbnb guests are entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy. But creeps with cameras might not give a damn about your rights — they just want to watch your pony play.