I have never used Airbnb, the system where people can rent out rooms in their homes (or even the entire residence) to other people. This is attractive for low-budget travelers for whom hotels may be too expensive or in cases where there is no hotel near where they want to be. But Brad Esposito writes that there is a danger of staying in the home of someone you don’t know because you may be the target of a voyeur.
Another Airbnb guest has found hidden cameras in their rental home — this time disguised as motion detectors — raising questions as to what the platform and its customers can do to ensure privacy.
Airbnb spokesperson Jeff Henry told BuzzFeed News this type of incident was “incredibly rare” and that the company had permanently banned the host from its community. A full refund was also offered to the guest.
“Cameras are never allowed in bathrooms or bedrooms; any other cameras must be properly disclosed to guests ahead of time,” Henry said.
This incident is one of several accounts of unsavoury Airbnb surveillance in recent years.
In October, an Indiana couple visiting Florida discovered a hidden camera disguised as a smoke detector in their Airbnb’s master bedroom.
Earlier that same year Airbnb was forced to investigate and suspend a Montreal listing after one of the renters discovered a camera in the bedroom of the property.
Services that depend upon social networks, like Airbnb and ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, depend upon people essentially trusting strangers, based on the recommendations of other strangers. In the main, these seem to work well but it is good to bear in mind that users still need to exercise a lot of caution because of the possibility of encountering an outlier abusing the system.
Jenora Feuer says
Yes, there has been quite a spate of companies saying ‘We can do better without all those onerous regulations!’ and then fairly promptly demonstrating exactly why those regulations exist in the first place…
Marcus Ranum says
I could see trolling the snoopers turning into a strangely fun art-form. You know: an apparent murder occurs in the bedroom. A body is dragged into the shower. Plastic bags are hauled out. Then the camera is discovered and smashed. Or perhaps the guests appear to be dividing up the spoils from a bank robbery. Reservoir Dogs LARP!
Then you tell the FBI about the prank and that if the host doesn’t come forward with info about the “crime” they had decided to cover up a murder in order to protect their peeping.
There is probably something quirky in my psychology, but I also think it’d be kinda hot to play “spies”. You know, like Atomic Blonde.