More than 1 in 10 Airbnb guests have found hidden cameras: Survey

The short-term rental bookings website already has a policy requiring hosts to disclose surveillance. And many guests accept they're being watched, according to a survey of 2,000 people

Is your Airbnb host spying on you? A recent survey shows that more than half of the people who have stayed in Airbnb listings are concerned that they could be recorded on hidden cameras, while more than 1 in 10 guests have actually found surveillance equipment.

The survey, from financial services company IPX1031, included responses from 2,000 people who were asked in April about their Airbnb experiences. Of those 2,000 people, 58 percent said that they were worried “that property owners may have hidden cameras within their Airbnb,” the survey found.

Meanwhile, 11 percent of the survey respondents had actually located cameras in their short-term rentals.

Somewhat surprisingly, however, nearly a quarter of the people who responded to the survey, or 24 percent, said that they would be fine with cameras inside their Airbnb’s common areas such as kitchens or living rooms.

In a statement to Inman, Airbnb spokesman Charlie Urbancic took issue with the survey’s methodology, describing it as “questionable at best” and adding that it “doesn’t take into account several important factors.”

“That said, we have strict policies regarding the proper disclosure of security cameras and take reports of any violations extremely seriously,” he added. “There have been over half a billion guest arrivals in Airbnb listings to date and negative incidents are incredibly rare.”

Cameras in Airbnbs have become a controversial topic in recent months thanks to a parade of headlines about unsuspecting guests stumbling upon surveillance equipment.

By March, The Atlantic had documented what it described as a broad problem of cameras in Airbnb rentals, and by April numerous websites had produced guides on how to scan a unit to see if someone is watching.

Broadly speaking, the issue boils down to guests’ need for privacy verses property owners right to prevent theft, damage and illegal activity. (It’s also possible of course that someone is using hidden cameras for more prurient reasons, though no one is mounting a defense of voyeurism.)

For its part, Airbnb requires property owners and managers to disclose to guests the presence of “any type of security camera or other recording device in or around a listing, even if it’s not turned on or hooked up.”

“We also require you to disclose if an active recording is taking place. If a host discloses the device after booking, Airbnb will allow the guest to cancel the reservation and receive a refund,” the company states in a rules document.

Airbnb also bars guests from spying on other people.

Concerns about surveillance notwithstanding, Airbnb doesn’t appear to be slowing down. The company continues to launch new initiatives, such as a partnership with a DNA testing company that is meant to facilitate family heritage-based travel.

Analysts also expect the company to go public later this year.

And while the IPX1031 survey suggests that hidden cameras may be a growing concern among travelers, it also includes some good news for Airbnb itself: 83 percent of respondents said they actually do trust their hosts.

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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