Paying to sleep at a stranger’s home is now a common transaction thanks to peer-to-peer rental services like Airbnb. But it’d be foolish to think there aren’t inherent risks. An Indiana couple vacationing in Florida found out the hard way when they discovered a hidden video camera in the bedroom of their Airbnb rental, ABC reports.
Already a night into their stay, Derek Starnes and his wife “freaked out” when they looked at their ceiling to find a small black hole sitting on the side of a smoke detector. They hurriedly took the device down and realized it wasn’t a smoke detector at all, but a video camera recording HD video and audio onto an SD card.
The couple then alerted the police who searched the rental and found another video camera in a different room. The home at 623 Cedars Court was reportedly listed on Airbnb for two years.
“We seized a lot of computer storage data devices, hard drives, computers, laptops SD cards anything that would store data,” Lt. Bob Bourque told ABC. “We don’t know if there are local victims someone who may have been dating him or a companion that doesn’t realize they are being videotaped, and then we have the other side of who he rented to through Airbnb.”
The police arrested 56-year-old Wayne Natt and charged him with one count of video voyeurism. Bourque said Natt gave a statement to police, claiming everyone he filmed gave him consent, and that there are “dozens of videos” of people engaging in sex parties in the home. He admitted the camera was meant for recording “sexual activity.”
Starnes said Natt had more than 40 reviews on Airbnb. The couple is hoping other users who stayed at the home will come forward. Starnes told ABC that he’s certain the video camera captured him walking around the bedroom naked and said he and his wife are distressed by the incident.
According to Airbnb’s terms of service, a host must clearly disclose any surveillance devices in their homes with guests. Airbnb also prohibits devices that can capture or transmit audio, video, or still images in private spaces such as bedrooms and bathrooms.
A spokesperson at Airbnb sent ABC a statement regarding the incident:
“We are outraged at the reports of what happened; as soon as we were made aware, we permanently banned this individual from our community and fully supported the affected guests. Our team has reached out to local law enforcement to aid them with their investigation of this egregious offense and we hope justice is served. We take privacy issues extremely seriously and have a zero-tolerance policy against this behavior.”
You can read Airbnb’s rules on “electronic surveillance devices” here.