Airbnb bans indoor security cameras in rentals

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Airbnb announced Monday that it’s banning the use of security cameras inside rentals.

Before this change, the platform allowed owners to have cameras in common areas, such as living rooms, kitchens and hallways, as long as they were disclosed on the listing. Security cameras were not allowed in areas such as bedrooms or bathrooms.

The change will go into effect April 30, Airbnb said in a blog post. The company said the majority of rentals on its platform do not report having a security camera, and the change is expected to affect a small number of rentals.

“Our goal was to create new, clear rules that provide our community with greater clarity about what to expect on Airbnb. These changes were made in consultation with our guests, Hosts and privacy experts, and we’ll continue to seek feedback to help ensure our policies work for our global community,” Juniper Downs, Airbnb’s head of community policy and partnerships, said in the post.

Airbnb will continue to allow hosts to use security cameras and devices in outdoor spaces, such as ring cameras or noise decibel monitors, “to monitor security for their home and get ahead of issues like unauthorized parties,” the company said. Outdoor cameras will continue to be prohibited in outdoor spaces where there’s an expectation of privacy, such as outdoor showers or saunas.

Hosts must disclose the use of decibel monitors, and they will only be allowed in common areas, the company said.

Short-term rental competitor Vrbo said in a statement Monday that it has prohibited indoor cameras in rentals since 2022, but does allow outdoor cameras in common spaces if they are disclosed. The company said it requires additional disclosures if the outdoor cameras also capture pools.

“We are glad to see our competitor on board with what we consider a base level of privacy for customers,” Vrbo said in a statement.

Travelers have reported horrifying incidents of hidden cameras in short-term rentals over the years, and social media content creators have gone viral with tips on how to find them.

Airbnb settled a civil suit in 2015 with a customer who found hidden cameras in a California rental. In 2019, police in South Korea discovered cameras inside TV boxes, wall outlets and hair-dryer stands that had live-streamed approximately 1,600 guests in their hotel rooms. Later that year, a couple filed a lawsuit against a San Diego Airbnb owner who allegedly hid cameras inside small holes of the bathroom and the bedroom ceiling. Last year, a Texas couple sued their Maryland host after finding cameras in the bedroom during their stay in 2022.

Joe LaSorsa, chief executive of LaSorsa and Associates, a security firm, said Airbnb’s new rule is clear and straightforward, with no exceptions or loopholes.

He said the rule could possibly lead to an uptick in damage caused by guests. Since hosts will no longer be able to keep on eye on their visitors, they might strip their properties of valuables and amenities at risk of being broken or stolen.

For guests, the rule should allay their privacy concerns. However, LaSorsa said if guests are suspicious of hidden cameras, they should look for a WiFi signal being emitted from objects not normally associated with the Internet, such as alarm clocks and smoke detectors.

He also recommends shining a flashlight around the space. The light will pick up a camera lens. “Usually you can see some type of aperture or lens opening where you can actually see the lens itself. And, obviously that’s indicative of a camera,” he said.

Natalie Compton and Andrea Sachs contributed to this report.

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