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Did You Know That Airbnb Has a “Hidden-Camera Problem?”

Faced with a seeming epidemic of guests reporting hidden-cameras discovered in overnight accommodations, Airbnb has announced a crackdown on hosts who may be illicitly recording their guests. The move comes after a series of high profile incidents in which guests using the home-sharing app claim secret cameras were discovered in bedrooms and other supposedly private spaces.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that personal space no longer exists when traveling. Traditional privacy sacrifices such as airport security and near-constant CCTV monitoring (along with the occasionally invasive customs and immigration interrogations) seem almost quaint compared to the invasions of privacy today’s travelers are now subjected to in some unexpected places.

Already this year, passengers on major airlines were taken aback to discover hidden cameras installed in the seat back screens just inches from their faces. Police in South Korea said they uncovered a scheme in which hundreds of hotel guests may have been secretly recorded with footage then uploaded to a voyeur website.

Now, Airbnb rentals appear to be the most recent places where travelers are on occasion being watched without their knowledge or permission. Most troubling of all, it appears that hidden cameras in a home-sharing rental may be perfectly legal, depending on the jurisdiction.

The Atlantic’s technology writer Sidney Fussell recently reported on the case of an Airbnb guest who allegedly discovered a hidden camera in the bedroom of his Miami, Florida rental. The guest quite reasonably removed the memory card from the spy cam and alerted police with evidence in hand. This is where things took a Kafka-esque turn. Police reportedly not only told the victim that the home owner had every right to surveil his property, but also accused the guest of theft for taking the memory card with him when he left. To make matters worse, the unwitting film star says that Airbnb officials suggested he work out the issue with the homeowner when he returned the keys and memory card.

“This wasn’t a negative experience,” the frustrated guest told The Atlantic. “This was a criminal act.”

Airbnb allows its host to use security cameras in outdoor and community areas so long as the recording devices are disclosed to guests ahead of time. The home-sharing site says it does not ever allow hosts to place cameras in private areas such as bathrooms and bedrooms. Airbnb also notes that hosts are subject to an extensive background check, including searches for a match in sex offender and felony records.

Airbnb has so far refused to comment on this latest spycam case. The company quietly settled a 2015 lawsuit over similar circumstances. The sharing site was quick to respond publicly after a family’s complaint about an undisclosed recording device in a rental property went viral on social media earlier this year.

“We require hosts to clearly disclose any security cameras in writing on their listings and we have strict standards governing surveillance devices in listings,” Airbnb explained in a statement.“This host has been removed from our community.”

[Image Source: Shutterstock]

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