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Airbnb bans all indoor security cameras

Airbnb announced Monday that it is banning all indoor security cameras in all listings.
Carl Court
Getty Images
Airbnb announced Monday that it is banning all indoor security cameras in all listings.

Airbnb is prohibiting the use of indoor security cameras in its listings globally, the vacation homestay rental company announced on Monday. The decision comes after many reports of hidden cameras over the years.

While the majority of its listings — more than 7 million worldwide at the end of last year — don't report having indoor security cameras, Airbnb said the policy change was made in an effort to prioritize the privacy of guests.

Previously, the company allowed indoor security cameras in common areas, as long as they were disclosed on the listing page before booking and clearly visible to guests.

"The update to this policy simplifies our approach and makes clear that security cameras are not allowed inside listings, regardless of their location, purpose or prior disclosure," read the statement.

The revised policy — which takes effect on April 30 — also includes more thorough rules on the use of outdoor security cameras and other devices such as noise decibel monitors, which are required to be disclosed before guests book.

Outdoor cameras will not be allowed in certain areas "where there's a greater expectation of privacy," such as a sauna.

Vrbo, another vacation rental company, states that it does not allow any form of surveillance device inside a property, with the exception of smart devices that are allowed "as long as you have been informed of their presence and given the option to deactivate them."

Surveillance devices that use any form of capture device — such as a camera or an audio recorder — can't be used inside a property, the company says.

On TikTok, there's a whole page dedicated to showing users how to find hidden cameras. One video by cybersecurity specialist and ex-hacker Marcus Hutchins has 5 million views.

Hutchins advises people to look for devices that are suspiciously placed and shine a bright light at it. "If you hit a camera lens, it's going to give a blue-ish reflection," he said.

In a 2022 interview with NPR, Thorin Klosowski — who at the time was privacy and security editor at Wirecutter also recommends unplugging "anything that looks kind of fishy, whether that's an alarm clock or just a USB plug that seems random in the wall."

The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a group that serves those targeted by surveillance abuse, released a statement on Monday welcoming the ban.

"No one should have to worry about being recorded in a rental, whether the bedroom, the living room, or a hall," said Albert Fox Cahn, the group's executive director. "Getting rid of these cameras is a clear win for privacy and safety, and we know that these recording devices are ripe for abuse."

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Diba Mohtasham