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A man found a camera in his Airbnb and the company didn’t seem to care

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Airbnb apologizes for its handling of the issue

A man says Airbnb found no issue with a camera he discovered while staying at a residence in Seattle this winter. However, the company is now walking back their initial response.

In a blog post Tuesday, Jeffrey Bigham, an associate professor and Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University, states that he located the camera in the corner of the living room one day into his trip.

After promptly unplugging the device, Bigham says he looked over the homeowner’s guide to see if the camera was mentioned, a requirement according to Airbnb’s policies.

Bigham says while the guide listed numerous cameras “at the entrance,” the device in the living room was nowhere to be found.

The professor then contacted Airbnb and was reportedly told that a single photo of the living room included in the listing constituted proper disclosure. The photo, posted to Twitter by Bigham, shows a faint white object in the corner of the room.

“Is that some sort of a weird light? Is it some sort of crown molding, or maybe some sort of smoke detector?” Bigham writes on his blog, arguing that the photo left much to the imagination.

Bigham alleges that soon after contacting Airbnb, the company even alerted the homeowner to his complaint.

“A lot of other weird stuff happened during this trip stemming from this — AirBnB told my host we asked about the cameras, he sent someone to snoop on us, he left us a bad review, etc.,” the professor states.

The homeowners reportedly even went as far as to send a message to Bigham after learning that the camera had been disabled.

If I ever really have to stay in an AirBnB again, I guess I’ll be taking a much closer look at all the photos, or maybe just explicitly ask my host to confirm there are no cameras inside the home,” Bigham says.

In a statement to the Daily Dot, Airbnb apologized for its handling of the incident and stated that it has since given Bigham a refund.

“Our community’s privacy and safety is our priority, and our original handling of this incident did not meet the high standards we set for ourselves,” Airbnb said. “We apologize to Mr. Bingham [sic] and fully refunded him for his stay.”

The company also reiterated its policy on security cameras and stated that the host no longer lists the residence with Airbnb.

“We require hosts to clearly disclose any security cameras in writing on their listings and we have strict standards governing surveillance devices in listings. This host has been removed from our community.”

A picture of a camera, the company added, does not count as disclosure.

While an undisclosed camera in the living room is cause for concern, Bigham’s experience is not the first for Airbnb users. Other guests over the years have found hidden cameras in more intimate locations such as bedrooms and bathrooms.

Mikael Thalen

Mikael Thalen

Mikael Thalen is a freelance journalist based in Seattle, covering all things technology, including social media, data breaches, hackers, and more.