Quick! Cover that wall clock! Or that weird looking bonzai tree placed on top of your bed cabinet. Before you realize, some naked Russian dude might be using Airbnb hidden cameras to spy on you.
In the last few years, there have been some cases of Airbnb hidden cameras found by tourists. Having said that, I do not think that this should stop you from using Airbnb altogether (by the way if you want help on booking, check out this article).
Rather you should simply be more attentive to the possible existence of these hidden cameras.
There are a couple of precautionary measures which can be taken to avoid being filmed secretly. I have listed the main measures below:
1.1 Look for objects which seem out of place
If a host is secretly trying to film you, then he will need to place the camera at a certain angle to capture the images. Therefore, it makes sense to look for objects that seem redundant or out of place.
For example, if there are two smoke detectors on the ceiling next to one another, then chances are one of them is actually a hidden camera. Another example would be a wall clock in the bedroom that faces directly at the bed. As most bedrooms do not have wall clocks, I suggest you investigate the object in more detail.
Pro tip: The majority of hidden cameras are typically cleverly concealed in items such as alarm clocks, wall clocks, smoke detectors, plants, mirrors, light bulbs, speakers, and even USB wall plugs. If you come across any of these objects, perhaps it would be a good idea to take a closer look and see if you can spot a lens. Please be reminded that this is not an exhaustive list of objects, as there are always new and stealthier cameras being created.
1.2 Shine a flashlight to pick up the reflection of lenses
Lenses from hidden cameras are usually made out of glass.
Glass is highly reflective.
Flashlights can make you spot reflective materials.
I think you can already connect the dots now...
A clever way to try and find a hidden camera is by using your smartphone flashlight (or any flashlight to be honest). What you first need to do is to turn off all the lights in the room you will inspect. Then take your smartphone and shine the flashlight around every corner of the room. When doing that you will need to be on the lookout for any small bright flash of light being reflected back at you. If you find a flash coming from an object, examine the said item thoroughly as you may have found a hidden camera.
I would say that this is a hit and miss approach that requires some practice. Yet, the only time I ever found a hidden camera in an Airbnb was using this method.
1.3 Use Wi-Fi sniffing apps to check for networks
Nowadays, most hidden cameras are connected to wifi. Therefore, one way of detecting if there is a hidden camera in the property is by using wifi sniffing apps such as Network Scanner by Fing for both iOS and Android. This app will basically show you all the devices that are connected to the wifi (in this case your Airbnb).
If you check the app and see a device that is connected to the network that you cannot identify or that has a weird name (e.g. IPCAMERA), there might be a hidden camera in the property.
Pro tip: Keep in mind that not all hidden cameras need to be connected to wifi to operate (e.g. some cameras record to an SD card). Therefore, you cannot assume that there are no hidden cameras if the app does not detect an extra device connected to the network. Also, if the host is really clever, he would have set a private network solely for this hidden camera, making it impossible for the app to detect it.
1.4 Use a hidden camera scanner device
The last and perhaps most effective solution is to invest in a small and inexpensive device that can assist you in the process of finding hidden cameras. Despite their small size, these devices do a good job of finding almost any sort of wireless signal that hidden cameras send out. Simply point its antenna at objects around the house, if the device makes a noise you might have found something.
This method is definitely for the more privacy-sensitive nomads.
Would I go around with a hidden camera scanner device myself? Probably not.
Does that mean you shouldn’t? Hell no. I can totally conceive scenarios where it is totally justifiable for someone to want to really make sure there are no hidden cameras on an Airbnb.
Maybe you are a famous person… maybe you are planning to do some major non-family friendly activity there… Who am I to say?
2. What to do if you find Airbnb hidden cameras?
If you are unsure about an object, the rule of thumb is to investigate it further. If after you take a closer look at the object you are still unable to establish the existence of hidden camera, then, as a precautionary measure, I would unplug it from the wall (if applicable) or cover the item with a cloth or towel.
However, if you are sure or strongly believe that you have spotted a hidden camera, please contact Airbnb immediately. It is obviously against the law and Airbnb’s terms of conditions to have hidden cameras in a property.
The best way to contact Airbnb is to call this phone number: +1-855-424-7262. Alternatively, you can send a message to Airbnb’s customer support team through Airbnb’s website or app.
Moreover, you can try to get a refund.