The spy who rented to me? Throwing the spotlight on hidden cameras in Airbnbs – We Live Security

Do you find reports of spy cams found in vacation rentals unsettling? Try these tips for spotting hidden cameras to put your worries to rest.
Thanks to technology advances, travel has become faster, cheaper and more streamlined for many of us. We can book flights via smartphone apps, check in online, easily overcome language barriers and avoid getting lost. Finding somewhere to stay has also never been easier as technology has opened up a whole new world of travel both for those on a budget and families and couples looking for a stay in more luxurious surroundings.
But technology also brings with it new risks, including when it comes to our privacy. In recent years, some travelers have had their dream vacations ruined by one particularly creepy privacy risk – covert cameras in rental properties, which are often booked via platforms such as Airbnb.
To be sure, this is not intended to scaremonger or feed paranoia – far from it. You’re still more likely to encounter other travel-related cyberthreats, such as Airbnb-themed scams or other common risks to watch out for while travelling. But ours is also a time when all sorts of surveillance gadgets are increasingly affordable; what’s more, these gadgets are often tiny and/or designed to look like everyday objects – they are intended to be difficult to spot, after all.
It is understandable, then, that many people are worried about possibly being watched on camera in their private moments. So much so that the risk gets its turn in the spotlight every time an Airbnb guest takes to social media to share their own horror stories about coming across spy cams in the bedroom or bathroom of their host home.
Real-world (and known) cases involving spy cams don’t appear to be particularly common, but they do occasionally happen. Here are a handful of examples over the past few years:

A 2019 study by property services firm IPX1301 found that of 2,000 American Airbnb customers, the vast majority (83%) trusted their host. So far so good. But over half (58%) also said they were worried about the prospect of hidden cameras in the property. Additionally, a full 11% of respondents said they had discovered a hidden camera in their Airbnb.
Now, the number may be a far cry from the actual number of cases involving discoveries of spy cams in vacation rentals. Indeed, far from all worries (and reports) about such invasions of privacy seem to have been substantiated.
Making matters even more complex, some owners of vacation rental homes vent their frustrations about their guests on social media, including by releasing footage from legitimate (i.e., fully disclosed) security cameras, along with the guests’ full names. Back in 2019, Facebook shuttered one such group with thousands of members.
As the market leader in vacation rentals, Airbnb has taken much of the flak for the spy cam incidents. There have also been reports according to which the firm was slow to take customer complaints seriously.
check out this picture from an @Airbnb I recently stayed at in Seattle — notice anything concerning?
if you manage to spot it, that's great, because Airbnb considers this photo to be proper disclosure… 1/n pic.twitter.com/gj9XFcaZoe
— hci.social/@jbigham (@jeffbigham) January 15, 2019

Now, Airbnb’s policy on the matter is pretty unequivocal. Security cameras and noise-monitoring devices are allowed “as long as they are clearly disclosed in the listing description and don’t infringe on another person’s privacy.”
The presence of cameras or other recording devices needs to be disclosed in the property listing (two examples from random Airbnb listings)
In other words, there’s a clear ban on:
With over seven million listings worldwide, it’s extremely difficult for the company to police these rules. That means guests may want to get proactive and take matters into their own hands. Indeed, given how creepy the discovery of spy cams can be, why not arm yourself with knowledge on how to avoid this scenario – or at least dispel any lingering doubts?
If there’s even a remote chance that your Airbnb host could be secretly spying on you, it’s time to get serious about protecting your privacy. Channel your inner James Bond with the following tips for finding a hidden spy cam:
Depending on what you’ve found (or haven’t found), it’s your call what to do next. Call the police, inform Airbnb, move out and demand a refund. Or kick back and continue your stay safe in the knowledge there’s nothing to worry about.

RELATED READING: 8 questions to ask yourself before getting a home security camera

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