Cameras in Airbnb

Airbnb is a globally popular platform that allows you to find beautiful accommodation directly with locals. But as it happens, with something good always comes something bad. Airbnb and similar services are criticised for many reasons. One such bad thing may be the misuse of hidden cameras. So in this article, we’ll look at what Airbnb itself and the law say about cameras. In addition, we will also give you advice on how to stay safe and protect your rights.

8 minutes of reading

Chapters of the article

What is Airbnb

Airbnb was created in 2008 as an idea to accommodate travellers in local homes. The goal was to meet people with similar interests and be their guide in an unfamiliar place. Gradually, however, the platform has evolved into what it is today, which looks more like a commercial catalogue of rooms, apartments and houses for rent.

Even though the platform has largely lost its original purpose, it is still a very popular and widely used way to find accommodation. And no wonder. The offer is really wide. You’ll find everything from cozy little cottages in the Norwegian countryside to huge penthouses in the middle of New York City. For those who like unconventional options, there’s also a wide range of unique housing styles, such as houseboats, treehouses or even marquees on the edge of the forest.

Virtually anyone can rent a property here. The reliability system is based on peer review – the guest rates the host and the host rates the guest. This way, you can choose hosts with good ratings and be sure that you won’t go wrong. In addition, the Airbnb platform also provides 24-hour support. In case there are any problems with the accommodation or the host, you always have someone to turn to and someone to solve the problems with.

Need some advice?

Do you need help with any legal issue related to invasion of privacy? Contact our attorneys. Email us with your question and you will have a response from one of our attorneys within 48 hours.

Cases of small hidden cameras in Airbnb

Although this service brings many good things, it also carries risks. One of the main risks is the use of small hidden cameras in rental houses or apartments. These cameras can be used by hosts for many reasons. The most common is likely to be for security purposes, but even these can be an invasion of privacy.

Tip: Read our article to find out when you are breaking the law with a CCTV camera.

However, in addition to security purposes, there have also been a number of cases over the years where Airbnb hosts have had their entire property riddled with mini cameras for the express purpose of surveillance. There have been a number of such cases.

One such case happened to the Barker family from New Zealand. The family decided to go on holiday to Ireland and chose to rent a house through Airbnb for accommodation purposes. Unfortunately, they were in for an unpleasant surprise in the form of a camera in the house connected to the wifi, which they noticed when they tried to connect to the local wifi network themselves. They then found the camera physically hidden in the fire alarm in the living room.

Another similar case took place in Texas, USA. Here, an Airbnb host was criminally charged with illegally and invasively recording guests. More than 2,000 photos of nude and sexting guests were discovered on his phone. The photos were obtained by a small camera in the house disguised as a network adapter.

What the legislation says about cameras in Airbnb

Airbnb itself has commented on cameras in the rented apartment or house. It explicitly prohibits hidden cameras, cameras in personal areas (such as bedrooms or bathrooms) and cameras that are not known to guests in advance. As such, Airbnb does not prohibit cameras, but they must be appropriately placed and guests must be informed in advance.

So, the host can place a camera in the Airbnb, but it must be clearly visible and placed only in common areas (such as the living room or hallway). In addition, the presence of the camera must also be mentioned in the description of the accommodation.

If the apartment or house rented through Airbnb is located in the Czech Republic, Czech laws and the Civil Code apply. The latter stipulates that capturing a person’s likeness with the possibility of identifying them is only possible with their consent. Therefore, if a host wants to make recordings in his apartment or house, he must have the consent of his guests. In the case of Airbnb, the guest gives consent to the recording by renting the property for which the monitoring is announced in the description. Therefore, if you do not agree to be filmed, you will have to choose another accommodation that does not have cameras installed.

Tip: Are you an Airbnb host thinking about installing security cameras but not sure what you can and can’t do? Check with an attorney. Email us with your question and you will have an answer from one of our attorneys within 48 hours.

At the same time, however, the law requires the host to protect any camera footage from misuse by outsiders and to keep the footage for only a few days so that the host has enough time to check whether, for example, theft or destruction of his property has occurred.

If the Airbnb is located in the European Union, it is subject to the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. Even in this case, the host is required to inform their guests of the presence of the camera and monitoring, but they do not need explicit consent. However, even in this case, if you do not agree to the monitoring, you can find another accommodation that does not have cameras. In addition, the host also has a duty to determine the purpose of the recording, to keep records of the processing of the recordings and to protect the recordings from misuse.

Tip: You may encounter GDPR on many occasions. In particular, it is unavoidable if you are about to start a business. In this case, our GDPR audit service for entrepreneurs will come in handy. If you choose it, we will prepare an inventory of the requirements that this legislation brings and the impact on your business.

In non-EU countries, it depends on their local legislation. Therefore, if you are going abroad, you should find out in advance what rights you have in relation to camera surveillance. And if you are absolutely against being filmed in your holiday apartment, you can always choose an Airbnb without cameras.

How to protect yourself from cameras

Even though it’s stipulated in Airbnb’s rules that guests must be informed about cameras, some hosts may still use hidden cameras. As mentioned above, this is not only prohibited by Airbnb, but also by Czech and EU law and, in most cases, by the laws of other countries. So how to protect yourself from unwitting monitoring?

Check the presence of cameras

It is never a bad idea to check the house or apartment you are renting for a mini camera, hidden camera or even a sound recorder. It’s a good idea to do a physical check in the first place. In particular, check smoke detectors, alarm clocks, air purifiers or electrical outlets. Also check mirrors and glass surfaces for any irregularities. Turn off the lights in the room and look for flickering lights. This is because cameras often have lights that can be visible even if the cameras are tiny or hidden.

Next, use a Wi-Fi network scanning app to find any other devices connected to your local network. In addition, you can also invest in a device that can detect if there are cameras in the room. Such devices work by capturing radio frequencies or video camera lenses. However, their reliability can vary considerably, so you need to choose a really good quality product.

Contact Airbnb

In case you actually find hidden cameras, you can contact Airbnb support directly. This is a violation of the terms and conditions on the part of the host and you should be entitled to cancel your stay and get a refund. Airbnb can also help you find alternative accommodation in this case

A lawyer can also help

If you don’t get help from Airbnb, contact a lawyer for a refund. Hidden cameras are a clear violation of Airbnb’s rules and you should get your money back. If Airbnb has a problem with your request, it is not a bad idea to send a pre-suit notice, which serves as a last warning before you sue, but without having to pay a court fee and risk paying the other party’s litigation costs as a last resort.

Similarly, if you decide to file a criminal complaint against the host for unauthorised recording or even misuse of your recordings, legal advice will be worthwhile. In the event of a lawsuit, you as the victim have special procedural rights that are good to know. In such a situation, it pays to be represented by an attorney.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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