You wouldn’t be surprised to learn that you had been videotaped at an airport or in a hotel lobby. But in an Airbnb rental property? A number of Airbnb guests have discovered video cameras invading their privacy, either as part of a security system…intentional monitoring of renters…or perhaps even lechery.
Here are six ways to reduce the odds you’ll be caught by surprise on camera in an Airbnb…
• Read Airbnb property listings for camera disclosures. Airbnb’s policy is that properties can have cameras if hosts disclose them in the listings. (Cameras are never allowed in private areas such as bedrooms or bathrooms, however.)
• Ask the host about cameras. When exchanging e-mails prior to your stay, ask whether there are cameras in use on the property. This warns the host that you’re aware of the issue, which might deter him/her from using the cameras. If the host says that there are cameras, ask their locations (and whether they capture audio as well as video) so that you know where you do and don’t have privacy—or rent a different property instead. If the host says that there are no cameras and you later find one, you can use this e-mail as evidence that the owner violated Airbnb disclosure rules.
• Download and use the Fing app. This free app identifies every device currently on a Wi-Fi network—including any cameras transmitting video images (Android or iOS).
• Examine any items that seem positioned to view beds or bathrooms. Check each item for a tiny lens. Cover, turn or move the item if you’re not certain.
• Turn out bedroom and bathroom lights after dusk, and shine your smartphone’s flashlight around. If you see a small glint, investigate—the reflection could be off the glass of a hidden camera’s lens.
• Press your fingernail against bathroom and bedroom mirrors. With normal mirrors, there will be a tiny gap between the tip of your nail and the tip of the reflected nail. If there’s no gap, it’s probably a two-way mirror, potentially with a camera hidden behind it.
If you discover an undisclosed camera in an Airbnb property you are staying in: Use your smartphone to take pictures of it, then inform Airbnb—you’re allowed to cancel your reservation and demand a refund. If the camera is positioned in a bathroom or bedroom, also call the police.