Can hotels and AirBnBs spy on customers?

How seemingly everyday objects contribute to the invasion of privacy.

Have you ever found a random USB charger in a hotel room and thought “How lucky someone left their charger and now it’s mine!” “? Have you ever plugged your phone into the USB port of an alarm clock and said to yourself, “I’m so glad this hotel or guesthouse made my life easier with this bedside technology!” “? Have you ever looked at a smoke detector and said, “Thank goodness he’s there in the event of a fire, I’ll be protected!”

Well, here’s the bad news: all of these can be, and perhaps are, hidden cameras that observe, record, spy, and rape you. And the worst, these disguised cameras are only sometimes illegal. Don’t believe us? Make a simple Amazon search and prepare to be spooked by the amount of spy gear you can get on a two day expedition. There are cameras hidden in wall sockets, clocks, picture frames, coat hooks, pens and more.

Now whether or not you, a world traveler, have to worry depends on where exactly you are staying. In Airbnbs around the world, it’s totally acceptable for the host to have hidden cameras in common areas (kitchens, living rooms, etc.). The bedroom and bathroom are prohibited and the host is required to disclose the location of all cameras; but, sometimes they don’t and sometimes you’ll forget what they told you as you make coffee naked first thing in the morning or decide to engage in some intimate activity with your partner on the living room sofa.

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To make matters worse (maybe), AirBnb is now push a range of devices to hosts to help them protect their property through various surveillance methods. The devices are used for “party prevention” and can monitor noise, movement and even the temperature in the property. The idea is to help be a good neighbor and to point out sustained noises and parties. Please note that the devices must be in the open air and not in the bedrooms and bathrooms. Alright AirBnb.

The VRBO home booking site is a bit better, like their policy strictly forbids their partners to use ANY surveillance equipment inside the property. Far from home, another home booking site, is a little less reassuring because their the privacy policy simply states: “Be mindful of the privacy of your guests – let your guests know if your property has security cameras or other surveillance systems. No one likes to be nosed around! Ouch.

If you are staying in a hotel it is a bit safer as cameras are very rarely found in rooms. However, beware of the “leftovers” you might think you were lucky to find, as the “forgotten” charger could be a camera in disguise. Internationally, however, hotels and their camera policies can be very different. Just ask those hundreds of motel guests who secretly recorded in South Korea.

So what are you supposed to do? You’re not going to stop traveling, but you want to protect yourself. According to Randy Andrews, camera security expert, look for red flags first. “Look for anything that is out of place. If the clock radio is pointing at the bed or in the bathroom or in an unusual place. Inspect the device, turn it over. See if there are any signs on it. These hidden cameras come pre-built into many of these devices, including shampoo bottles, USB chargers, 110 outlets, and Bluetooth speakers. Also look for an SD card slot as most cameras record on board with an SD card for days or weeks.

Another option is to download Andrews’ app, the Hidden Camera Detector, and scan your room as soon as you arrive. The app can detect wireless signatures, infrared devices, sound frequencies, and of course all camera lenses.

Be prepared and be smart when you travel. Look for anything out of the ordinary, find out how to find disguised cameras, and call the police if you find a hidden objective watching and recording you.

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