By Aaron Kesel
Airbnb is having more and more of its hosts hiding security cameras in rooms, and it doesn’t seem to be worried about the practice if innkeepers are disclosing the cameras and they aren’t in the bathrooms or bedrooms, according to a report by Fast Company.
“If you find a truly hidden camera in your bedroom or bathroom, AirBnB will support you. If you find an undisclosed camera in the private living room, AirBnB will not support you,” Jeffrey Bigham, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University told Fast Company.
Bigham blogged about his recent experience at an Airbnb where he found cameras in his “private living room,” writing in a blog post, “A Camera is Watching You in Your AirBnB: And, you consented to it.”
“I just assume that there will be camera constantly recording when I stay in airbnb, or anywhere really. They way I never have to worry about whether it exist or not. As recording technology becoming more and more advance, it’s less and less reasonable to expect privacy. I rather adapt my life to fit this new culture,” Bigham wites.
Airbnb argued that since one single camera was visible in pictures advertising the rooms, the owner of the Airbnb rooms for rent disclosed the security cameras.
Airbnb has since apologized and has given Bigham a refund, according to CNET. A spokesperson provided the publication with the following statement:
Our community’s privacy and safety is our priority, and our original handling of this incident did not meet the high standards we set for ourselves. We have apologized to Mr. Bigham and fully refunded him for his stay. We require hosts to clearly disclose any security cameras in writing on their listings and we have strict standards governing surveillance devices in listings. This host has been removed from our community.
However, Bigham is far from the only Airbnb customer to find cameras in a room they rented; and while Bigham found his in a “private living quarters,” others have found them in more private places like the bathroom and bedrooms.
Another case happened last September in Toronto, Canada, where a couple — Dougie Hamilton and his girlfriend — rented an Airbnb flat and discovered hidden cameras in their bedroom, News.com.au reported.
Hamilton told the Daily Record:
We were only in the place for 20 minutes when I noticed the clock. We’d had a busy day around the city and finally were able to get to the Airbnb and relax.
I just happened to be facing this clock and was staring at it for about 10 minutes. There was just something in my head that made me feel a bit uneasy.
It was connected to a wire like a phone charger which wasn’t quite right. The weirdest thing was, I’d seen a video on Facebook about cameras and how they could be hidden and they had a clock with one in it, too.
Last fall, a couple on a Florida vacation found a camera hidden in a smoke detector in the bedroom of their Longboat Key condo.
Another less recent case was posted on Reddit four years ago claiming a couple found a camera from a Dropcam, a connected home security system by Google’s Nest. The couple found the camera hidden in a mesh basket before unplugging it, according to the post.
According to Airbnb’s rules, the company states:
Our Standards & Expectations require that all members of the Airbnb community respect each other’s privacy. More specifically, we require hosts to disclose all surveillance devices in their listings, and we prohibit any surveillance devices that are in or that observe the interior of certain private spaces (such as bedrooms and bathrooms) regardless of whether they’ve been disclosed.
So how does one determine if there are potentially hidden cameras in a room? While there is no foolproof method for discovering hidden cameras in a room, there are ways that you can try to find them. Start off by shining a flashlight from your phone in the dark. Look for a light that bounces off a camera lens. According to Digital Trends, this will help you spot lenses that are otherwise hidden to the human eye in the shadows or built into objects such as clocks, walls, bureaus, and other furniture.
Other places that cameras can be hidden include:
- Motion sensors
- Smoke detectors
- Alarm clocks
- Wall clocks
- Plug in air fresheners (especially if they don’t give off any scent)
- Stuffed animals
- Books on a shelf (where a camera is embedded in the spine of a fake book)
- Cooking canisters and spice racks
The next way to find hidden surveillance devices has to deal with scanning for WiFi-enabled cameras on the local network. Motherboard has provided a relatively easy shell script to not only find the cameras but to disable them.
However, Julian Oliver explains that it may be illegal to run the script due to changes made by the FCC.
If you do find cameras, Airbnb adds that you can cancel your reservation for a full refund if the cameras aren’t disclosed or are found in an unreasonable area such as the bathroom or bedrooms. This is troubling and it’s not only affecting Airbnb but other services like it, such as VRBO and HomeAway. Both companies also have similar policies; VRBO says cameras are never to be placed in an area where guests “can reasonably expect privacy.” However, the problem is that some owners don’t follow those rules, so you must only trust yourself.
Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post. Support us at Patreon. Follow us on Minds, Steemit, SoMee, BitChute, Facebook and Twitter. Ready for solutions? Subscribe to our premium newsletter Counter Markets.
Image credit: Pixabay