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Airbnb issues global ban on indoor security cameras

Worldwide: Airbnb has announced that it is issuing a global ban on the use of indoor security cameras at its listings, as it seeks to prioritise guest safety and privacy and responds to increasing security concerns. 

The company said that the measure, which will come into effect on 30 April, was part of efforts to “simplify” its policy on security cameras and other devices at its listings, and it would only impact “a smaller subset of listings on the platform”.

In addition to the update on indoor cameras, the revised policy will also bring in more comprehensive rules on the use of outdoor security cameras and other devices, including noise decibel monitors.

Until now, Airbnb has permitted the use of indoor security cameras in common areas, such as hallways and living rooms, provided that they were disclosed on the listing page before booking, were clearly visible, and were not located in spaces such as sleeping areas and bathrooms. The revised policy ensures and clarifies that security cameras will not be allowed inside any listings worldwide, regardless of their location, purpose or prior disclosure.

Juniper Downs, head of community policy and partnerships at Airbnb, said: “Our goal was to create new, clear rules that provide our community with greater clarity about what to expect on Airbnb. These changes were made in consultation with our guests, Hosts and privacy experts, and we’ll continue to seek feedback to help ensure our policies work for our global community.”

Devices such as doorbell cameras and noise decibel monitors will continue to be permitted on Airbnb as a way of monitoring security and preventing unauthorised parties. However, hosts will now be required to disclosed the presence and general location of any outdoor cameras before guests book, and cameras will also not be allowed in outdoor areas where there is a “greater expectation of privacy”, such as enclosed outdoor showers or saunas.

Meanwhile, hosts will furthermore be obliged to disclose the presence of noise decibel monitors, which assess decibel level only and do not record or transmit sounds or conversations, and are only allowed in common spaces of listings.

After the ban has been officially implemented on 30 April, any host or property owner who commits “repeated” violations will be investigated and could have their listing and / or account removed by the Airbnb platform.

The updated policy on security cameras comes in response to previous incidents at Airbnb listings where guests have reportedly found such devices in inappropriate places, leading to accusations of voyeurism being levelled at certain hosts. In the most serious cases, guests have even filed lawsuits against the home-sharing platform.

That is despite Airbnb never having permitted hidden indoor cameras in any of its listings.

Airbnb now has an estimated 150 million users and 7.7 million global listings according to its latest Q4 2023 update. The company says that the vast majority of its listings do not have security cameras and will therefore be unaffected by the revised policy.

In a spring update published last week, the firm announced that it would verify almost 1.5 million listings in the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK and France by the end of this month, and that it had already removed 100,000 “low-quality” listings from its platform since April 2023.

CEO Brian Chesky previously pledged that all of Airbnb’s listings would be verified for the first time as far back as November 2019.

In response to the news, Nils Mattisson, co-founder and CEO of monitoring device Minut, said: “Airbnb’s decision is a game changer for guest privacy and safety because there’s no longer any doubt over whether and where cameras can be placed in rentals. The only way to truly guarantee privacy is not to record sensitive data in the first place.

“Using cameras inside rentals was not only controversial but it was overkill by owners in most cases. There are several better ways they can protect their properties as well as the guests without intruding on them.
“The danger with cameras was always that they provided a false sense of security. Unless they’re monitored around the clock, they only deterred damage from a tiny minority of inconsiderate guests but did nothing to make travellers’ stays safer. The industry needs to embrace this change and move the conversation away from damage to property and make it much more about guest safety and security,” he added.

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