Home Exchange

Hidden Cameras in Airbnb Rentals and Home Exchanges

Surveillance camera technology has advanced a lot over the past decade. You can purchase tiny cameras, record or stream live, and even control the direction and zoom remotely. For security many people have cameras on their doors. And now cameras are becoming more common inside the home. But what are the rules about cameras in a home the home owner is hosting guests.

This one is easy to spot

It’s certainly bad etiquette to film your in-laws without warning. But it’s not, in general terms, illegal. Though there are some exceptions and these generally vary by jurisdiction. And it’s mostly not legal to film in areas of the home where people have a general expectation of privacy.

Hidden cameras in home rentals

So what about in the case of peer-to-peer home rentals? It’s not surprising that Airbnb hosts might want some cameras in and around their home to make sure guests are abiding by the rules. This is an easy way to catch someone sneaking in 5 extra guests, or throwing a big party, or stealing stuff. But it’s also a potential violation of privacy, whether or not it’s illegal.

Would you notice this mounted on the bookshelf in a bedroom?

Airbnb as enacted some policies in response to complaints about cameras in the home. Hosts are allowed to have cameras in common areas of the home but they must disclose the location of all cameras. Hosts are not allowed to have cameras in bedrooms or bathrooms. Still, people find hidden cameras in Airbnb rentals. For the most part Airbnb seems to deal with this by offering new accommodations and then investigating the host. But The Atlantic reports that the Airbnb support team has some issues applying these policies consistently and respecting the safety of the guests.

Hidden cameras in home exchanges

Airbnb is a huge company, with lots of staff and years of experiences building policies. And they’re still struggling with how to handle hidden cameras. What does this mean for home exchanges? I have yet to come across a home swap network with policies around cameras in the home. Or even with suggested questions about this.

In house swaps the applicable laws don’t require disclosure of cameras. But if I found a camera in a home where I’m staying I’d be quite angry. At the very least I want to know in advance if I’m being filmed. And I would most likely refuse an exchange if my swap partner planned to be filming. I don’t mind if there is a camera at the door, but I value my privacy, and expect my exchange partners to respect that.

It’s never occurred to me that I should ask home exchange partners about hidden cameras. But as recording devices become more ubiquitous in homes, this might get added to my list of important things to discuss.

2 Comments

  • These notes are part of our house notes for visitors about our Arlo camera system.
    “As part of the alarm system there are security cameras in the study, lounge and downstairs passage which are of course switched off when anyone is in the home, but if you wish just pull them off their magnetic mounts and put them somewhere safe for us to find!”

  • I left HomeLink because our last exchange had a camera in the living room with camera and sound recording. The owner was “surprised” to hear of what their camera was capable of, but then admitted to using it once before and were angry that we had a problem with it. We could hear when they turned it on when we were there!! We asked HomeLink if they had a policy around cameras in houses and they said no, but it should have been discussed when setting up the exchange. We certainly felt it wasn’t within the spirit of an exchange, ie we trust you with our house, but not really so we will spy on you. We now ask if cameras are in the house before we arrange an exchange in our new network.

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