With the rise of affordable, easily concealable surveillance technology, the specter of hidden cameras in Airbnb rentals has become a real concern for travelers.
Airbnb’s policy expressly prohibits the installation of cameras in private spaces, such as bedrooms, bathrooms, or sleeping areas, while permitting their use in public and common areas, provided that hosts disclose their presence in their listings. Certain countries or regions have also enacted laws to protect the privacy of guests. However, despite these regulations, some hosts continue to breach the rules, as evidenced by recent incidents.
Kennedy Calwell took to social media to recount her shocking discovery of a camera concealed in a bathroom outlet at an Airbnb property she rented for a birthday celebration with friends. In July 2023, another case: a couple filed a substantial lawsuit against an Airbnb owner after uncovering hidden cameras recording their every move during their stay. Similarly, in October 2023, a newlywed couple from China honeymooning in Malaysia found themselves at the center of a similar distressing situation when they stumbled upon a hidden camera pointed at their bed.
Maintaining vigilance and staying informed about your rights and the proper protocols is essential in safeguarding your privacy while using short-term rental services like Airbnb.
To ensure your safety and privacy, experts suggest taking proactive measures both before and after booking an Airbnb rental. Before making a reservation, thoroughly scrutinize the listing for any mention of camera installations. Additionally, scour through guest reviews to identify any potential red flags.
Once you’ve arrived at the property, conduct a comprehensive sweep of each room. Experts recommend checking for small holes that might indicate a hidden lens, which are often discreetly placed in common household items like books, mirrors, light bulbs and even houseplants. A meticulous search should include logical areas for data gathering, such as the living room for information seekers or private spaces like bathrooms and bedrooms for those with voyeuristic intentions. Be mindful of the camera’s placement, typically in elevated positions for an unobstructed view.
Turn off all the lights and use a flashlight to identify any reflections that might reveal the presence of a camera lens. Don’t forget to inspect items such as smoke detectors, alarm clocks, showerheads and electrical outlets, as these are common hiding spots. In a tech-savvy move, use your phone’s infrared detection capability by employing the camera app to scan for any bursts of light that might signal the presence of a hidden camera.
@malwaretech Reply to @safarijackza How to find hidden cameras in AirBnBs #safety #travel ♬ original sound – Marcus Hutchins
If you have access to the rental’s Wi-Fi network, download a Wi-Fi scanning app to identify connected devices. For an extra layer of security, consider investing in an RF detector to ensure a thorough sweep of wireless devices.
If you do discover a hidden camera, promptly document its presence with photos and videos. Immediately report the incident to the booking platform you used and, if necessary, seek alternative accommodation. Consider filing a police report to prevent further privacy violations and protect other potential guests from a similar experience.