Airbnb indoor security camera ban: use these tips to stay safe

Airbnb indoor security camera ban
Image: Airbnb.

Online home rental platform Airbnb has announced a worldwide indoor security camera ban throughout listed properties, addressing a major privacy concern of guests.

Announced in an online statement, the company’s new policy comes into effect as of 30 April, giving property owners time to comply with the camera ban. It tightens up the company’s stance on privacy, which previously permitted cameras in common rooms like hallways and living rooms, provided it was disclosed on the property listing. Cameras were not allowed in private areas, including bedrooms and bathrooms.

According to Airbnb, the policy update should only “impact a smaller subset of listings”. The company says this is because “the majority of listings on Airbnb do not report having a security camera”.

However, this doesn’t account for hidden or undisclosed cameras. Multiple stories have emerged over the years of families finding secret cameras, which is against Airbnb’s rules. The upcoming changes make it clearer what is and isn’t allowed, providing more transparency to customers.

“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

Anyone found in violation of the indoor security camera ban “will be investigated” by Airbnb, with listing or account removal potential punishments. Outdoor security cameras are still allowed, along with noise decibel monitors, as long as they are clearly disclosed on the property listing. Hotels listed on Airbnb can also use indoor security cameras in common areas.

How to check for a security camera in your Airbnb

Even with the new rules in place, there’s no guarantee your privacy will be respected. To spot hidden cameras, there are a few things you can try.

Cameras take on many different shapes and sizes, with some even fitting in smoke alarms. When you arrive at your accommodation, check your surroundings for potential camera hiding spots. Objects like picture frames, clocks, and decorations are prime candidates. If anything looks out of place, inspect it closely.

One of the oldest tricks in the book is to turn your phone’s flashlight on and point it around the room. It might help you catch the reflection of a camera lens easily missed by the naked eye. Otherwise, check each room in the dark to look for any LED lights located on a camera while it’s recording.

Even if you can’t see a camera, you might be able to hear it. Some models make quiet buzzing or clicking sounds while in operation. That’s how one Reddit user found an undisclosed security camera obscured by a painting. Some responses to that thread also suggested unplugging the property’s router and using your mobile data, so that the camera couldn’t upload footage online. However, some camera models, like the Arlo Go, do have cellular functionality.

Another method is a bit more spy-like in nature. You can use a phone app like Fing to detect signals from wireless devices connected to the same network. You might also be able to spot some cameras’ infrared light via your phone’s camera.

While the tightened privacy rules from Airbnb don’t guarantee that everyone will play by the rules, it’s a step towards more peace of mind for travellers.

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