On-Site Airbnb Cameras Challenge Guests and Hosts Alike

The old privacy versus security debate takes a new form

Ever get the feeling you're being watched?
Bernard Hermant/Unsplash

There are plenty of good reasons for someone renting out a home on Airbnb or Vrbo to have a security camera on the premises. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of creepy reasons for them to have the same kind of equipment present. Finding the right balance, where guests can have privacy but hosts can have security, is an emerging challenge for all involved — and one with few clear-cut answers.

Writing at Insider, Dan Latu explored some of the issues at hand here. It’s understandable that someone acting as a host might want a camera or two on the property to make sure nothing untoward is happening there. It’s also eminently understandable that a guest would want some privacy there. Jen Kelman, an Airbnb host who spoke to Latu, explained the nature of this conflict. Put a camera in the wrong position, she explained, and “[i]t’s going to make them feel like I’m looking at them, and I don’t want them to feel that way.”

It’s also worth noting that both Airbnb and Vrbo have guidelines regarding security cameras. Airbnb’s guidelines mandate that a host disclose all cameras on site, and that that those cameras only be present in public or common areas. Vrbo’s guidelines prohibit indoor cameras entirely, with the exception of “[s]mart devices which may not be activated remotely” — and even those can be deactivated if a guest isn’t comfortable with them being there.

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One person’s acceptable level of surveillance might be a bridge too far for someone else. Both companies do a good job of mandating that hosts disclose the presence of cameras on their property’s page though. Making a sure a renter knows what they’re in store for seems like the best option available.


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