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.
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.
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.