How Airbnb Handles Hosts Who Are Caught Secretly Filming Guests
In a local news report on Friday, a California couple said they found a hidden camera disguised as a smoke detector positioned over the bed in their Airbnb “romantic getaway”. They brought up the issue to Airbnb the following morning and the company refunded their money — but the couple feels this action was not enough.
"They need to do something about this because not only we were in the room with the cameras, but 24 other people who left reviews were in the room with cameras as well," Christian Aranda told ABC 7. He said he is considering pursuing further legal action.
The case is far from unique. Since the start of 2019 alone, there have been several news reports about Airbnb guests finding hidden cameras in their lodging.
Current Airbnb regulations allow hosts to place cameras in common areas, like the living room or kitchen. Hosts must disclose that they are using cameras and guests must agree to these terms before booking. However, cameras are never allowed in areas of reasonable privacy, like the bedrooms or bathrooms.
Airbnb’s responses to customers’ hidden camera reports are now at the center of an investigation by The Atlantic. According to the piece, several claims by guests have been poorly dealt with. In all instances, Airbnb refunded guests their payments and, if necessary, arranged alternative accommodations.
“The safety of our community — both online and offline — is our priority, which is why we take reports of privacy violations very seriously and employ sophisticated technologies to help prevent bad actors from using our platform in the first place,” an Airbnb spokesperson said in a statement.
The company says it attempts to filter out hosts who may film guests by checking sex offender and felony databases. And, if a host comes under investigation, they are temporarily banned from hosting on the site until a conclusion is reached. If they are found guilty, their listing is removed from the site.
But, according to The Atlantic, Airbnb doesn’t always have a clear-cut procedure for dealing with filming claims. In one case, a guest was advised to reach out to the host and directly ask whether or not she was being filmed with the cameras she found — despite this sort of communication being against Airbnb policy.
Several guests have said they may pursue further legal action, which could put Airbnb at the center of some policy-altering litigation.
At the moment, the problem is so widespread that a software developer released a program that guests could use to cut any video-monitoring linked to their Airbnb Wi-Fi.