Airbnb has apologized after a guest found a hidden camera in a rental home, which was apparently disguised as a motion detector.
On Nov. 27, American archivist Jason Scott tweeted a picture of the camera, which he said was found in the motion sensor. He said it was his colleague, who remains unnamed, who found the hidden camera in the room.
“In ‘oh, that’s a thing now’ news, a colleague of mine thought it odd that there was a single ‘motion detector’ in his AirBNB in the bedroom and voila, it’s an IP camera connected to the web. (He left at 3am, reported, host is suspended, colleague got refund.),” his tweet read.
As of Tuesday, the tweet has received around 24,000 retweets.
In response, Airbnb released a statement saying they had “permanently banned” the homeowner and gave the guests a full refund.
“Airbnb takes privacy extremely seriously and there is absolutely no place in our community for this kind of behaviour,” Airbnb spokesperson, Jeffrey Henry said.
This isn’t the first time Airbnb tenants found a recording device in their room.
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In October, a Flordia man was arrested and charged with voyeurism after his Airbnb tenants discovered a camera above the bed hidden in a smoke detector. The man admitted to rigging up the camera system with the intent to film consensual sex parties, he said.
The Airbnb tenants who found it said they were not aware of the recording devices until one of them noticed a black dot on a smoke detector. When it was opened, a camera and microphone were inside.
In 2015, a German woman sued the company for negligence after she discovered a secret cam inside a California residence.
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“The problem is more common than you think,” Steve Parkin, president of TapSweep Counter Surveillance Services, said. “All one has to do is look at the availability of products and quality of covert cameras that can be purchased for under $50.”
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And it’s not just with Airbnb, he said the problem is also found in hotels and bed and breakfasts.
How to spot a hidden camera
Although Airbnb said it’s “incredibly rare” to find a hidden camera in a room, you may want to double check for peace of mind. Here some tips on how to protect yourself from hidden cameras.
Scan the room
Look around the room and see if there are any tiny cameras around. It only takes a pinhole camera to see into a room, so look for a small hole on objects or in the wall, Parkin said.
Look for tiny holes on electrical outlets, picture frames, screws, smoke detectors, clocks, etc.
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Use a light
If you shut off the lights in the room, use the light on your smartphone to scan walls, mirrors, phones, etc. You may be able to spot the reflection from a camera lens.
“Go slowly, and examine suspicious places from multiple angles. If you see glints of light where there shouldn’t be — areas where there are no mirrors, glass or other reflective surfaces — you may have found a camera,” according to consumer technology website, Techlicious.
Use an app, hidden camera detector
Parkin said there are inexpensive phone apps and hidden camera detectors that look for a reflection of a lens in the room — such as in a clock or smoke detector.
It may seem a bit obvious but always do your research before you book a room with Airbnb. If there are a lot of bad or mixed reviews it may be an indicator to stay away.
Hire a professional
If you’re really feeling like you need peace of mind, you can hire a professional to scan the room for bugging devices.
If you do find a hidden camera, it is better not to disturb it and instead call the police.
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