November 27th 2023.
Are you worried about hidden cameras in your Airbnb? You may not know it but Airbnb hosts are allowed to film their guests. However, if this is the case, the cameras should be disclosed to the guests. Airbnb, Booking.com and Vrbo all have similar rules in place, which state that cameras should not be placed in private spaces such as bedrooms and bathrooms.
Unfortunately, not everyone follows these rules and reports of hidden cameras have regularly emerged from all around the globe. In 2019, Max Vest shared his experience with The Atlantic, where he found two hidden cameras in his Miami Airbnb. ‘I didn’t know if I was being watched live. What I’ve found since is that [the cameras] record to a memory card, but they can also stream live. The host could’ve been watching. Anybody could have been watching,’ he said.
Similarly, earlier this month Ian Timbrell found a camera tucked between two sofa cushions at his Airbnb in Aberystwyth. He asked on X, ‘Am I wrong to have unplugged it? Seems like a huge invasion of privacy to me!’
If you’re worried about being secretly filmed while staying in an Airbnb or other rental, there are some simple steps you can take to check for cameras. Firstly, turn off all the lights and sweep a flashlight or your phone’s torch around the room. Look out for a glint of light as any camera lenses reflect the torchlight back. Check items that could easily hide a camera, such as alarm clocks, shower heads or smoke detectors.
Secondly, you can use the fingernail test to check for two-way mirrors. With a regular mirror, your fingernail and its reflection shouldn’t be able to touch. If they can, it could be a two-way mirror. Alternatively, turn all the lights out and shine your torch at the mirror. If you can only see the light’s reflection, it is probably a regular mirror. If it’s two-way, you may be able to see the area behind.
Additionally, cameras may use infrared to detect movement in low light – and your phone can help spot this too. Use a TV remote or similar and point it at the camera. Look out for a small, purple/pink light, which may be flashing or steady, on both the front and back cameras. If you’re a regular traveller you may want to invest in a professional lens hunter, available from around £50.
Finally, if you have access to the property’s WiFi, do a scan to see which devices are connected. If the property has a smart home device, such as an Amazon Echo Show or Google Nest Hub, check the camera tab to see if it is being monitored.
By taking these steps, you can ensure peace of mind while enjoying your getaway.
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