Hidden camera in Airbnb accommodation

Transparency matters in lots of areas, particularly in light of technological advances in surveillance technology, as a family from New Zealand found to their cost on a visit to Cork last month while on a tour of Europe.

Their Airbnb host had installed a hidden camera in the living room of their accommodation. Despite Airbnb’s assertion that it exercises a “zero tolerance” to such breach of privacy, the family found a distinct lack of transparency around their tortuous investigation process.

This not an isolated incident. A report in the US magazine, The Atlantic, reveals instances of hidden cameras in American Airbnb accommodation. In 2015, Airbnb settled a civil law suit brought by a German woman who discovered hidden cameras in her rented accommodation in California in 2013. During the hearing, she argued that she now fears that “images of her exist in electronic form and could make their way onto the Internet or some other medium”.

It is a real worry, as advances in technology means cameras are getting smaller and more powerful and can be used as a veritable casting couch with guests — including children — as hapless actors. The response by Airbnb, a $31bn company, is dismal. In one US case it refused to reveal an errant host’s identity on the grounds of — wait for it — privacy.

Removing a host from their listing is not enough. Only full transparency can give guests the reassurance they need.

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