Despite the frequent controversy surrounding Airbnb guests discovering cameras in their accommodations, Airbnb continues to allow the use of cameras inside vacation rentals. As a middleman between hosts and guests, Airbnb has to balance guests’ rights to privacy with hosts’ rights to keep their rentals secure.
However, its current guidelines for the use of cameras in vacation rentals leave a lot of room for error and a gray area that many aren’t comfortable with.
How Do Guests Feel About Airbnb Cameras?
In a survey that aimed to find out whether or not Airbnb guests trusted their hosts, only 24% were OK with cameras in common areas, and 58% said they were worried about hidden cameras, which is an entirely different issue on its own.
What Is Airbnb’s Policy Regarding Cameras?
Airbnb allows for the use of cameras in vacation rentals as long as it is disclosed in the listing. There are guidelines for hosts to follow that outline what is acceptable and what is not. Here are a few things that are never permitted, according to Airbnb:
- Hosts cannot intentionally conceal cameras, which is never permitted, regardless of location.
- Cameras cannot be placed in private areas such as bathrooms, bedrooms, and sleeping areas.
- Hosts must disclose the presence of all cameras, or other recording devices like an Alexa, even if they are not powered on.
- Hosts cannot actively record without letting guests know.
Too Much Room For Error
Guests staying at an Airbnb do so for a more personalized experience, and a certain level of privacy is expected. Unfortunately, there is a lot of gray area for camera use.
For instance, cameras are allowed in common areas like kitchens and living rooms. But what’s to keep that camera from pointing toward a more private location like a bedroom or bathroom?
Further, how can a guest know whether or not an active recording occurs if a host withholds that information? While that would violate Airbnb’s policy, is there any real way to know whether you are being recorded?
There is no reason they should have to fear their conversations or actions being listened to or recorded. Some argue that if you do nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about. Consider this, many people use Airbnb for remote working locations. They wouldn’t want sensitive work information to fall on the wrong ears, and it could violate company policy.
Current policies leave a lot of room for error. Guests who aren’t comfortable with cameras inside their Airbnb should know where to look to see if their property will include them. However, as discussed below, camera disclosures can often be vague and unhelpful.
How Can You Find Out If Your Airbnb Has Cameras?
Airbnb’s policy states that hosts must disclose whether or not their property has security cameras. If it does, they have to put it on the listing and include a description of each device, its location, and whether or not it will be powered on or off when guests check in.
For travelers wondering where to find this on listings, it will be listed under the “What This Place Offers” section under ‘amenities’. Digging in further will give more detail, though not much more in many cases. We have included screenshots of various properties in Los Angeles for reference. Our quick searching showed that many hosts don’t follow Airbnb’s disclosure policy very well, if at all.
While some properties do a great job of disclosing the type of device, its location, and whether it will be powered on, many do not. For instance, “we have camera outside” doesn’t tell us much at all about that camera. Where outside? Will it be powered on?
Even worse, some properties simply say, “security cameras on property.” This doesn’t even come close to following Airbnb’s policy, yet many of these properties have hundreds of reviews. A gray area indeed.
Are Listings Reliable?
Another thing to consider is that the people creating Airbnb listings aren’t Airbnb employees; they are just people who have a space they want to rent out on Airbnb’s platform. As such, taking the listing at its word isn’t always going to guarantee there aren’t cameras on the property. In a Reddit post by u/wolfstore, this very situation is outlined.
Though this post was from a year ago, the issue remains. What’s to stop a host from simply refraining to disclose cameras? Worse still, u/wolfstore goes on to say the host contacted them about too many cars in the driveway, outright admitting that they were watching the camera feed.
Security vs. Privacy
Airbnb allows hosts to place recording devices inside vacation rentals as long as they are appropriately disclosed. The current camera policies leave much room for error, and many travelers aren’t comfortable with the practice. The company aims to find a delicate balance between hosts’ security concerns and guests’ privacy concerns. However, many wonder if the scale is properly calibrated.
If you want to know whether or not your Airbnb will have cameras, check under the ‘amenities’ section and hope that the host followed Airbnb’s policy when disclosing their cameras.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com