Cameras in apartments, Airbnb's latest nightmare

Cameras in apartments, Airbnb's latest nightmare

WashingtonOn platforms like TikTok, it's easy to find videos of people searching for “hidden cameras” when they arrive at their vacation apartments. There are also those who sell devices that promise to be very easily detected or disabled. What may initially seem like some users' paranoia or an easy source of searching for likes, eventually becomes real. Last March, Airbnb announced a ban on the use of security cameras inside rented apartments and homes.

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Airbnb decided to implement this rule, which will come into effect from April 30, after some scandals occurred where renters discovered hidden cameras installed by apartment owners. One such case occurred in Silver Spring, outside Washington, and ended with the arrest of a man.

A Texas couple rented the house in this Maryland city bordering the District of Columbia to spend a few days there in August 2023. The couple noticed a light inside a smoke detector that kept flashing: It was a hidden camera. . When the tenants started looking around the house, they found more cameras hidden in other areas such as the bedroom. Worst of all was the discovery that cameras had recorded their “intimate moments.”

Series of cases

What was supposed to be a peaceful holiday turned into a nightmare due to the fear that videos of their “intimate moments” would be uploaded to the Internet. When police went to the home after receiving the warning, they found much of the camera material hidden inside owner Larry Joyce's computer. Joyce, 39, has been arrested and faces multiple invasion of privacy charges.

Joyce's case is not the only one to appear in the press in recent years. Airbnb filed a civil suit with a customer who found hidden cameras inside his rental home in 2015 in California. In 2019, South Korean police discovered cameras hidden inside TV frames, wall sockets and dryer brackets in hotel rooms. Cameras were recording 1,600 customers there. In the same year in San Diego (USA), a couple reported on an Airbnb owner who was hiding cameras in small holes in the toilet and in the ceiling of the bedroom.

The influx of news about hidden cameras has unleashed paranoia among some vacation rental users. Not just from Airbnb, but from any type of hotel, apartment or even cruise. Some internet forums are filled with users sharing their bad experiences and offering advice on how to prevent such situations. For example, In a Reddit thread (A very popular online forum in the US) A couple complained that they found security cameras in the common areas of their Airbnb, but the property did not notify them.

Ban in bedrooms or toilets

Until now, Airbnb has allowed vacation rental owners to have cameras in common areas, such as the living room, kitchen, and hallways, as long as renters are informed. Security cameras were not allowed in other areas such as bedrooms or bathrooms.

Officially, the company did not provide details about the specific reason it changed its policy regarding security cameras. Community Policy Head Juniper Downs explained on the platform's page that her goal “is to create clear new rules that give our community greater clarity about what to expect on Airbnb.”

To allay customers' concerns, Airbnb also stated that the majority of rentals posted on the platform do not have security cameras and that they expect the ban to affect only a small outpost. Cameras will continue to be allowed outdoors “to monitor home security and prevent unwanted parties.” However, outdoor spaces where privacy is expected (such as a sauna or shower) will continue to be prohibited.

Airbnb warned that any notification of non-compliance with the new rule will result in penalties that may include removal of the owner's account on the platform. However, it has not been determined whether they will take any further measures to ensure that property owners do not install hidden cameras.

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