It’s illegal for an Airbnb host to record guests without their consent. Even with that law in place, the platform prohibits cameras in private spaces like bedrooms and bathrooms.
But sometimes rules are broken and guests find themselves face to face with hidden cameras.
Marcus Hutchins, who brands himself as an ex-hacker, took to TikTok to settle some nerves.
In a video that now has more than 13 million views, Hutchins broke down how Airbnb guests can search for hidden cameras in their rentals.
@malwaretechReply to @safarijackza How to find hidden cameras in AirBnBs #safety #travel♬ original sound – Marcus Hutchins
Per Hutchins, guests should first look for devices that are placed “where a creeper would want to look.” In the video, he points to a fire alarm above a bed and a wall charger as examples.
“Now one way to see if a device has a camera is to shine a bright light at it,” he explained. “If you hit a camera light it’s going to give a bluish reflection.”
In the video, Hutchins used a light from his phone.
Another way to find cameras, he continued, is to shine a light at the glass on a digital clock because it will show what’s behind it. The trick can also work on two-way mirrors.
When it comes to hunting down night vision cameras, Hutchins says to shut off the lights and use a front-facing phone camera to scope out suspicious devices.
“Night vision cameras use infrared LEDs and if we turn off the lights and use the front-facing phone camera we can actually see these LEDs,” he said. “Now the front-facing camera is the only one that tends to work because the back-facing one has an IR filter.”
In 2019, The Atlantic released an article calling out the issue of hidden cameras in Airbnbs. The piece shared an anecdote about an Airbnb guest who found two hidden cameras facing the bed in a Miami rental.
“I didn’t know if I was being watched live,” the guest told The Atlantic. “What I’ve found since is that [the cameras] record to a memory card, but they can also stream live. The host could’ve been watching. Anybody could have been watching.”
Per the article, Airbnb refunded the guest, put them in a hotel room for the night, and removed the host from the website.
“If you’re a host and you have any type of security camera and/or other recording device in or around a listing, even if it’s not turned on or hooked up, we require that you indicate its presence in the Things to know section under Health & safety. We also require you to disclose how guests will be monitored and if an active recording is taking place,” the Airbnb website states.