A family travelling to Ireland has received a refund after discovering a hidden camera at their Airbnb accommodation.
Andrew Barker and his family stopped in Cork, Ireland, in March during a 14-month trip across Europe. One of the first things he did was connect to the available WiFi network. Barker, who works in IT, noticed a device labeled “IP Camera.” Using his phone, he scanned the device’s ports and discovered a live video feed.
“We were all watching ourselves on his mobile phone,” his wife Nealie Barker told New Zealand’s Stuff, adding that they do not know if the camera was recording. The camera was concealed within a contraption on the ceiling that looked like a smoke detector. A real smoke detector was just a few feet away.
Barker used tissue paper to cover the camera lens and contacted Airbnb. A representative for the company apparently offered “no advice” to the family over the phone. The service has since provided a full refund and removed the host from the database. “Our original handling of this incident did not meet the high standards we set for ourselves,” Airbnb said in a statement.
The company’s website says hosts are required to disclose to guests if they have any cameras on their property and prohibits surveillance devices in bedrooms and washrooms. Cameras are allowed outdoors, in living rooms and common areas. In 2018, Airbnb added a feature that shows where any cameras are located and the direction they point. It also prompts guests to indicate that they are aware the host has disclosed the site has cameras.
The listing wasn’t removed for more than 30 days, according to the Barkers, who confronted the host over the phone during their stay. The owner initially hung up but later called back to say there was only one camera in the home. On a family blog, Nealie wrote that they left the Airbnb to find “emergency accommodation.”
The family isn’t alone in their unsettling discovery. The home-sharing service has faced numerous reports of hidden cameras on host properties in recent years. In 2015, the company settled a civil suit with a German woman who found a hidden camera in a California rental two years prior. A woman travelling in Switzerland in 2016 discovered a cell phone secretly filming inside the bathroom of a rental unit. In 2017, filmmaker Jason Scott tweeted that his colleague found a hidden camera in a motion detector at an Airbnb. The same year, an Indiana couple reported a camera inside a smoke detector in the bedroom of their Airbnb.