An Airbnb host in China has been arrested after a guest staying in his flat discovered a hidden camera recording her in the bedroom. The camera was discovered when the unnamed guest spotted a light that appeared unusual in the Wi-Fi router. Apparently, the guest used to work in information security, raising her awareness of security concerns. She’s always checked her hotel rooms for any sign of surveillance devices, and upon opening up the router, she discovered a memory card hidden inside. Upon discovering this, she informed both the police and Beijing Youth Dailyin, and the host was arrested when it was discovered that he had been spying on guests since early March.
This isn’t the first time this has happened with Airbnb, early last month, we reported another instance where Hidden Cameras Found Inside This Family’s Airbnb.
Airbnb did not offer any response to questions asked by Threatpost, merely informing Beijing Youth Dailyin that the apartment had been removed from website listings. Of course, this isn’t doing much to soothe the nerves and concerns of potential Airbnb users. Especially considering that the arrested man was a ‘superhost,’ a host that, in Airbnb’s own words, is “a shining example for other hosts.”
If this were one isolated incident, then perhaps people’s fears could be assuaged. Unfortunately, it is far from the only incident: it is only the most recent. In March, Seoul police arrested four different people that had filmed around 1,600 motel guests in intimate and personal scenarios. This was done through over forty bugged rooms across thirty motels and ten cities in South Korea. A New Zealand family discovered an Airbnb host in Ireland was both recording and livestreaming them, and an Airbnb guest in Miami found hidden cameras in his room as well.
Airbnb has policies in order to prevent this kind of thing from happening. Namely, hosts must disclose the presence of surveillance cameras in their bookings, regardless of whether or not they are active or what their supposed purpose is. If the host discloses the presence of surveillance cameras after a room is booked, the guests are entitled to a full refund.
Of course, this isn’t exactly a powerful wall blocking all surveillance attempts. In fact, a survey shows that more than half of Airbnb guests are afraid of the possibility of being spied on. And considering that a shocking eleven percent of Airbnb guests surveyed by IPX 1031 have actually discovered surveillance devices being used to spy on them, it seems these fears may be well warranted.
That said, there isn’t much we can actually expect Airbnb to do about it. Short of combing through every host’s bookings for surveillance devices themselves, they can hardly ensure that guests aren’t being spied on, and that clearly isn’t feasible. It does raise some serious questions about the future of Airbnb and similar companies however. If the inherent risks and dangers of staying in a stranger’s home continue to be prevalent, how long will the company continue to have guests lining up to make them a profit? Then again, there may still be plenty of people willing to take the risk for a good Airbnb deal.
Sources: Threatpost, IPX1031