Vacations are coming fast, and you’re not completely confident renting an Airbnb, since you’ve read so many stories about a host spying on their tenants via hidden cameras? This camera hunter guide is for you!
Founded in 2008 on a brilliant idea by three Americans, Airbnb quickly carved out a place for itself in the tourism landscape, to the point of, at times, worrying the hotel sector and pushing certain large cities to put in place limits because of rental excesses. If Airbnb is widely acclaimed today, and has established itself as a common travel solution, it is not without risk. With such a concept, the firm simply cannot verify every square centimeter of the accommodation made available, and, despite the guarantees put in place by the firm, some unscrupulous hosts sometimes exceed the limits. This is how many stories about how some users discovered hidden cameras in their Airbnb have been relayed on the web. Obviously, if these stories have only fueled paranoia, let’s not forget that they do not identify a generality, but many exceptional situations. If, despite everything, you have suspicions about a guest or an object enthroned in your room, a little verification will allow you to be reassured for good and to enjoy your stay. That’s good, we’ll explain how to flush out the cameras hidden (or not) in your Airbnb!
Is a host allowed to install a camera in an Airbnb?
First of all, before rebelling at the presence of a camera in an Airbnb rental, know that it is indeed possible for the host to install one, under certain conditions. Guests are required to report the presence of a video surveillance system in their accommodation, and these cannot under any circumstances be installed in the bedrooms or bathrooms.
The rules of the platform are very clear on this subject: if you are an owner and you have surveillance cameras in your property (inside or outside your house), whether they are active or not, you must put this information in your bylaws. You will also need to notify the platform and tenants if videos are recorded. Be aware that if you report the presence of a surveillance system after a reservation, Airbnb will authorize the person to cancel their reservation and you will have to reimburse them. Penalties for failure to respect the privacy of others are also not excluded.
If you ever come across a hidden camera that was never mentioned by either the host or the listing, immediately contact Airbnb explaining the situation.
Where would the cameras be placed?
Since the host could possibly have a camera in a living room or in the entrance if he ever mentions it explicitly in his announcement, the places to scrutinize sparingly are the bedroom and the bathroom. Try to put yourself in the criminal’s shoes, and imagine which places would be preferable to have the best possible view on a bed, for example. A chest of drawers placed in front of the bed on which rests a strange teddy bear? An abnormally large switch on the wall? Some kind of pronounced hole in a corner or on an alarm clock placed on the bedside table? Start by checking these places, being very careful not to exclude small objects (cameras can be tiny these days). On the bathroom side, check the switches, under the sink, or above the shower. Without even carrying out a thorough search, if nothing seems particularly suspicious to you, it is already a good sign.
The flashlight technique
Once you’ve spotted these potentially suspicious objects, there’s a very simple technique to quickly check them for cameras. To do this, put yourself in total darkness, then turn on the flashlight on your smartphone (or a conventional flashlight). Then scan the room with this light, paying particular attention to places conducive to the proper placement of a hidden camera. Due to its optical properties, a camera lens is extremely reflective, and should sparkle more than ordinary glass when passing light such as a flashlight. Reflections should appear on shiny surfaces, but if you see a sparkling glow emanating from an object that shouldn’t be particularly glare, check that object further.
Some stories circulating on the web about these hidden cameras in an Airbnb talk about the possibility of detecting a camera via the WiFi network. Most surveillance cameras work via a WiFi connection, and most are even visible when looking for devices to connect to WiFi. Do not hesitate to take a look in your settings to see if a suspicious device with an evocative name is not there. Sometimes these cameras are not visible directly as a WiFi device, but you can always take a look at the applications (Network Scanner, Fing, iNet…) which allow you to know the list of devices connected to a WiFi network specifically. If you see that a camera is connected to the same WiFi network provided to you by the host, there is cause for concern.
If in doubt, you can completely deactivate the host’s internet box, which will necessarily have the effect of deactivating all the cameras that may be hidden in the accommodation. Hoping that your 4G connection holds up…
Infrared rays betray cameras
Another trick allows you to quickly detect if a camera is possibly filming you. Many cameras designed to operate in the dark (this is the case for most “consumer” surveillance cameras) emit infrared rays during their operation. If these rays are not visible to the naked eye, you can absolutely use your smartphone to identify them.
If your smartphone is able to detect these rays (to find out, use a television remote control while filming yourself, logically a small flicker should appear on the video) do not hesitate to film the accommodation with the light off. If you detect this type of very significant flicker in the final video, a camera is definitely filming you.
Logically, these simple methods should allow you to quickly and easily check if a camera is lurking around, in case of doubt. Nevertheless, do not forget that this type of misadventure remains exceptional, and that it is advisable not to sink into paranoia. If you ever really find a hidden camera in your Airbnb, contact their customer service immediately to obtain a refund and have a chance that the accommodation will be quickly removed from the platform. You would also be entitled to notify the police, and write a statement to ” invasion of privacy “.