On a recent trip, I quickly rented an Airbnb private home and only after I was there I noticed it was loaded down with a slew of indoor surveillance cameras. It got me thinking. What’s the legality of this? Is there anything I can do about it?
Concern over hidden cameras is growing, especially when it pertains to rental properties. In fact, right now Airbnb is involved in a lawsuit over that very issue.
According to the case file, a woman claims that she believed the apartment she rented 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’s microphone could have picked up.
Incidents like this could make renting a house or apartment a scary situation. That's why you need to know laws and company policies ahead of time.
Airbnb’s policy is summed up on its website, 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.”
The property that I rented did disclose in the listing at the very end that there were security cameras in the house. In retrospect, here’s a lesson learned. I should have asked the host some very pointed questions such as the exact number of cameras, the location of the cameras, whether the cameras were recording, and what happens to those recordings after my stay.
I spoke with Nick Shapiro with Airbnb about my situation. He was quick to point out that Airbnb takes privacy concerns very seriously. Had I not been informed of the indoor cameras and reported it to them, Airbnb would have actually put me up at a nearby hotel.
They would also investigate the matter and if undisclosed cameras were found, that landlord’s listing on Airbnb would be terminated. That’s reassuring customer service from a company as big as Airbnb.