The Market

Good news: your Airbnb host might be spying on you

By Virginia K. Smith  | February 19, 2015 - 2:59PM

Add one more item to the checklist of problems that can plague short-term renters (or their hosts): hidden, semi-legal surveillance cameras. Take, for example, the story of Marcella Reilly, who crashed on the couch of a former coworker after relocating from New York to L.A., only to realize her host had secretly installed a Dropcam on the living room bookshelf, covering up the camera's light with a piece of dark tape. Yikes.

After she confronted him about it, her "friend" claimed that it was an old, broken camera, Fusion reports. If this sounds fishy to you, it was: soon after, Reilly found a receipt indicating that he'd actually bought the camera just three weeks prior. However, when she called the police about the camera (which she realized must have caught her undressing, among other things), she was told, in essence, that she was out of luck, since people are allowed to tape what they want in their own homes.

"They said it’s legal for someone to have a camera in their home and record what they want without telling anyone, as long as it’s not in a private space like a bathroom,” she told the site. Indeed, as we've written previously, unless the camera is in a room where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy like a bathroom or bedroom, homeowners are generally within their rights to film what goes on in their apartments. On the flip side, devices like Dropcam that also record audio can get owners in trouble for violating wiretap laws, Fusion notes, and footage found on them can also be used against you in court. 

Common sense and etiquette would seem to dictate clear solutions: for the host, not surreptitiously filming people in your home, or making it clear that there's a security cam in place so they're not caught off guard. And for the average Airbnb renter or Couchsurfer, small, portable devices are available for as little as $100 that can quickly scan a room for hidden cameras of any kind. An annoying extra travel expense, yes, but well worth it for the comfort that comes with avoiding prying digital eyes.


Could your landlord be secretly filming you? How to find a hidden camera

Who's allowed to watch my building's security camera footage?

Home security 101: New Yorkers' biggest fears and best tips for staying safe

Lessons from an Astoria man who made $18,000 on Airbnb--legally

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