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Worried your Airbnb might have a hidden camera? Follow these steps

Updated Nov 8th, 2022 5:28PM EST
hidden camera in towels
Image: Sergey Privalov/Adobe

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Airbnbs are convenient and often much more affordable lodging options for travelers compared to what’s usually available from a nice hotel. Still, there are tradeoffs with everything, and with that convenience comes the suspicion from some Airbnb guests that … the owners totally have a hidden camera in here somewhere.

That’s one finding, in fact, from a 2019 survey measuring whether Airbnb guests actually trust their hosts. Fifty-two percent of respondents, for example, said they worry about their host having access to the building. Which doesn’t really make too much sense, when you think about it. If you worry the Airbnb host might sneak in and rob you blind (or worse) why are you staying there in the first place?

Do you trust your Airbnb host?

That same survey also revealed that around 60 percent of respondents worry about the presence of a hidden camera somewhere in their rental. And that 11 percent of respondents, in fact, have actually discovered a hidden camera in the Airbnb they’re renting.

That survey, by the way, included responses from 2,023 Americans. Fifty-six percent of whom were female and 44 percent of whom were male. The participants also had a mean age of 34.

The short-term lodging rental company, for its part, has stepped up its security-related offerings in recent years — including the launch just a few weeks ago of a new Solo Traveler in-app experience. “When a solo guest books a private or shared room reservation,” Airbnb explains in a company blog post, “we will activate a specialized in-app experience, starting with supplying the traveler with expert tips they may want to try to help stay safe when traveling alone.”

How to detect a hidden camera

Nevertheless, if you’re among those who feel a little skittish about renting a stay in someone else’s private property? Here are some steps you can follow (if you’re worried, specifically, about the presence of a hidden camera).

First, look for any hidden cameras that might be out in the open. That’s because Airbnb does allow hosts to have cameras in the rental, but there are some stipulations. From Airbnb’s rules:

“Intentionally concealed recording devices (such as hidden security cameras) are never permitted.

Airbnb prohibits security cameras or recording devices that are in or that observe private spaces like bedrooms, bathrooms, or sleeping areas.

You must indicate the presence of all security cameras or other recording devices in or around a listing, even if they’re not turned on or hooked up.

Undisclosed security cameras or other recording devices are never permitted.

You must also always disclose if an active recording is taking place.”

Also check for keyholes, or holes or any unusual objects that seem out of place. And here’s a video on how to spot hidden cameras in an Airbnb or hotel.

Other steps to take

Also, you can use a Wi-Fi scanning app like Fing to identify any cameras connected to your property’s Wi-Fi network.

Finally, there’s always the option of buying a hidden camera detector from retailers like Amazon. There are tons of options to choose from. However, you ought to be aware of the following from Michael O’Rourke, CEO of security consulting firm Advanced Operational Concepts.

O’Rourke told CNBC that many cameras now simply use SD cards that store data, so there’s no transmitting that’s involved. For that reason, those are more difficult to detect. Also, don’t cheap out. You’ll definitely want to heed that advice from Kenneth Bombace, CEO of intelligence firm Global Threat Solutions.

“Like anything else, you get what you pay for — if it’s $30, it’s probably not that good,” Bombace told CNBC. “Better ones are going to cost hundreds or even over $1,000.”

Updated on July 4th, 2022.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.