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Airbnb apologizes to guest for how it handled undisclosed security camera

The guest says the company's initial response was that a photo of the camera on the home's listing was proper disclosure.

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Airbnb says it has apologized for how it responded to a guest who found undisclosed security cameras at a home he rented with his family. 

Airbnb

When you're on vacation, the last thing you want to worry about is whether the house you're staying in is recording you.

And yet, that's exactly what many guests on Airbnb have encountered in the past. Guests have found hidden cameras in clocks, as well as fake motion detectors on the walls. Airbnb allows people to put their own homes up for rent, offering guests a cheaper alternative to hotels -- but that comes with privacy and security risks.

The latest instance surfaced when Jeffrey Bigham, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, said he spotted a security camera tucked away in the corner of an Airbnb home he stayed in on New Year's Eve in Seattle. 

"I was shocked, and immediately unplugged them," Bigham said in a blog post, referring to one in the living room and one elsewhere. Bigham didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

But according to his post, when Bigham contacted Airbnb, the company said the host had properly disclosed the security camera in the living room by showing it in a photo on the home's listing. The camera is not obvious in the image, and the listing stated that there were cameras at the entrance, not in the living room.

An Airbnb spokesman later offered a more sympathetic response, saying it's since removed the host from its platform.

"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 in a statement sent to CNET. "We have apologized to Mr. Bigham and fully refunded him for his stay."

Airbnb also said that photos of security cameras in home listings do not count as proper disclosure. The company does allow hosts to have security cameras in their homes, but they're not allowed in private spaces, like bathrooms and bedrooms.

They also have to write on the listing that there're surveillance devices, and guests have to acknowledge and agree to them before booking the home, the company said.

If you find a security camera in your Airbnb and don't recall agreeing to being watched during your stay, you should contact the company immediately. 

If you're worried there's a hidden camera, there are ways to discover them. Check out our full guide on how to spot hidden cameras in vacation rentals.

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