During a recent vacation, I rented a place up in Utah through Airbnb. I was looking around the house and noticed it had a number of wireless IP cameras installed in the common areas.
I often recommend indoor and outdoor wireless IP cameras as a good way to keep an eye on your house while you're away. However, it's not something you want to see when you're staying in a stranger's house. Is the owner watching you remotely? Are they recording you? If you don't see any visible cameras, are there hidden cameras?
This is actually turning into a big concern for vacation rentals as more people are finding hidden cameras in the rentals where they're staying. In fact, Airbnb is currently in a lawsuit after a female renter found a hidden camera in the living room of the apartment she rented (PDF).
The woman claims that she believed the apartment to be a private space, so she was frequently nude in the living room. Also, she and her travel companion discussed sensitive topics like finances and relationships that the camera microphone could have picked up.
I reached out to Airbnb for a response on the company's stance on indoor cameras - but received no reply. However, their policy is summed up in its FAQs, which says:
We expect hosts to respect their guests’ privacy. You must notify your guests about any security cameras or other surveillance devices at or around your listing, and get consent where required.
The use of surveillance equipment may also be against the law in some places, so make sure you understand your local regulations.
Another vacation rental site, HomeAway, did respond to my inquiry and provided the following statement:
The vast majority of HomeAway travelers have a positive experience staying in a vacation rental. In fact, 84% of travelers plan to stay in a rental again after doing so for the first time. However, in the rare event of inappropriate owner or property manager behavior HomeAway will immediately remove the listing from our sites and notify potential guests. We do not tolerate misconduct and there is a 24/7 support team ready to help should anything go wrong.
However, neither of these statements are going to stop someone from putting up cameras. And aside from getting kicked out of the Airbnb program, there are no consequences for putting up cameras. But what about the law?
*Psst... I'm sharing this experience in a special episode of my Komando On Demand Podcast. Press play below to listen to this free podcast anytime, anywhere!