How to check your Airbnb, Vrbo for hidden cameras

Tech

(NEXSTAR) — Are you being spied on in your Airbnb or Vrbo rental?

It’s a common worry in the short-term rental economy.

Last week, a civil lawsuit was filed in Kendall County, Texas, after a couple say homeowners recorded them during “intimate and private moments” while they were renting their property in August 2020. One of the homeowners was arrested and officials say their investigation discovered other illegally recorded explicit images of different guests.

Despite how sneaky some hidden camera hiding tricks can be, there are plenty of ways to detect them.

How to check for hidden cameras

Expert Marcus Hutchins, whose cybersecurity tips TikTok account @malwaretech has over 425,000 followers, says one quick way to find a hidden camera is by shining a light inside any items with holes in them. For instance, run your phone’s flashlight over a smoke detector or air conditioning vent — any lenses inside will give a bluish reflection. Hutchins said hidden cameras can be hidden in shower heads and even outlet plugs.

Shining lights on mirrors or other mirrored items will also reveal camera lenses hiding behind the glass, Hutchins said.

Meanwhile, Michael O’Rourke, chief executive of the global security consultancy firm Advanced Operational Concepts, previously outlined a few of his tips for the Washington Post.

O’Rourke says he unplugs beside clocks/alarms and puts them away in a drawer. Next, he says he covers peepholes in doors and covers cracks under doorways in case camera lenses can see through from outside.

Another tactic suggested by some experts is to disconnect your rental’s wifi completely, though this may be against your host’s rules, in addition to possibly causing other issues for (non-invasive) connected devices.

The smartphone app Fing is also noted for its ability to scan for hidden cameras on its own.

Short-term rental policies on cameras

Only cameras and recording devices that are clearly visible in common spaces and disclosed before guest reservations are allowed, according to the Airbnb camera policies. The company also explicitly states “common areas” do not include sleeping areas or bathrooms — not even living rooms that have sofa beds.

Vrbo’s privacy policy explains surveillance devices are anything that captures photos and videos, but also geolocation and personably identifiable information. Internet data monitoring by hosts is also considered surveillance. Devices aren’t allowed inside of a property, though hosts are allowed to use devices for security outside the property. All recording devices must be disclosed to guests beforehand.

If you think you may have been or are being monitored without your consent, you should contact the company you rented from.

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