How to quickly sniff out privacy breaches in Airbnb and rentals

A 61-year-old landlord was arrested in Stuart, Florida in 2022 accused of spying on a tenant with a hidden camera after a 12-year-old girl discovered a small device while trying to plug her computer into his room.

The camera was hardwired into the electrical outlet, according to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office. Such devices are becoming more common, said John Budensiek, Martin County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy.

The girl downloaded the Hidden Camera Finder camera scanning app, which alerted her that there were unknown cameras inside her home, a CBS affiliate WPEC reported.

The camera violated the child’s privacy in her own home where she should be safe, Budensiek said. “But in this particular case, he is clearly a pervert. He put this in the bathroom, facing the shower.

“That’s why I don’t use Airbnb,” Nikki Tha God tweeted along with a clip from a TikTok video showing an angry tenant describing how his landlord hid 12 cameras in a Detroit rental home, violating life privacy of the tenant’s wife and children.

Talk show host Kim Komando says it happened to him.

“Ready to be shocked,” the weekend radio host said in a July 2022 USAToday column. “You check into a vacation rental, settle in, and spot surveillance cameras. Even when cameras are technically allowed, it is very alarming. Cameras can hide in air vents, lamps, electrical outlets, and even unassuming objects like humidifiers and TV remotes. You have to see these cameras to believe they exist.

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According to the rental service, it is legal to install cameras, Komando added. “Years ago, surveillance cameras were expensive and cumbersome. These days they are affordable and easy to install and hide. »

Airbnb Politics on guest check-in is clear: hosts can have cameras on their property, but not in bathrooms or bedrooms where guests sleep, and only if customers have the possibility to give their consent before booking an ad.

Hidden cameras in rental properties aren’t just a nuisance. It is an invasion of privacy. Here are some ways to find out if there are cameras in your rental property.

Read the fine print

Komando said she had about a dozen cameras in an Airbnb she rented a few years ago. The owner disclosed the cameras in fine print at the bottom of the listing. “Now I read rental listings very carefully and ask these questions before I book,” she said.

Exactly how many cameras are there and where are they?
Are the cameras recording?
What happens to these recordings after my stay?

Know the laws in your state

Laws vary from state to state. The federal video voyeurism law states that you may not “capture any image of an individual’s private space without their consent, and do so knowingly in circumstances in which the individual has a reasonable expectation of life private”. Importantly, “private space” refers to nudity or lesser states of dress, Komando reported.

Know how to spot surveillance cameras

Smaller cameras can be hidden behind furniture, vents and decorations. Look for the lens reflection.

Turn off the lights and slowly scan the room for light reflections using a flashlight or laser pointer. Do it from multiple locations so you don’t miss a camera aimed only at certain locations, Komando said. Inspect vents and holes or gaps in walls and ceilings.

Consider getting an RF detector. This gadget is not ideal for wired or recording-only cameras, but can pick up wireless cameras that you may not see.

Connect to the rental’s wireless network using a free program like Wireless Network Watcher that shows which gadgets are connected.

“I do this in every rental I stay at, just to check what’s connected to the grid,” Komando said. “Be aware that the owner may have put the cameras on a second network, or they may be wired or record-only, so this is not a fail-safe option.”

If you find an undisclosed indoor camera

“Call the police,” Komando said. “Tell them you have direct evidence that your landlord is spying on you inside your rental home without your knowledge or permission. Use that exact phrase.

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