How to find hidden cameras in your Airbnb – or anywhere

how to, amazon, how to find hidden cameras in your airbnb – or anywhere

Worried about hidden cameras? (Picture: Getty/iStockphoto)

Here’s something you may not know about Airbnb: hosts are allowed to film their guests.

That’s correct. If you stay in an Airbnb you could be on camera – but if you are, you should know about it.

In its rules, the company is okay with ‘disclosed devices monitoring only public spaces and common spaces’ – that could include living rooms, hallways and kitchens.

If disclosing them properly, the cameras should be flagged to prospective guests, with a pop-up box warning them of the surveillance and being asked to ‘agree’ to being filmed when making a reservation. and Vrbo operate similar rules.

However, undisclosed cameras and those in private areas, such as bedrooms, bathrooms and living rooms that may also be used for sleeping, are banned – but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen.

For years, reports of hidden cameras have regularly emerged from across the globe. In 2019, Max Vest shared his terrifying encounter in The Atlantic, having discovered two hidden cameras in his Miami Airbnb while his hosts slept.

how to, amazon, how to find hidden cameras in your airbnb – or anywhere

Airbnb’s rules do allow for cameras in properties (Picture: Getty)

‘I didn’t know if I was being watched live,’ he said. ‘What I’ve found since is that [the cameras] record to a memory card, but they can also stream live. The host could’ve been watching. Anybody could have been watching.’

Mr Vest took the memory card and left the property, fearfing he would be spotted.

‘I know what [the host] had [at] stake by being caught,’ he said.

In this case, the cameras were hidden in black boxes that looked like phone chargers.

Others are less subtle. Earlier this month Ian Timbrell, 41, found a camera tucked between two sofa cushions at his Airbnb in Aberystwyth.

‘Am I wrong to have unplugged it?’ he asked on X, formerly Twitter. ‘Seems like a huge invasion of privacy to me!’

Many would agree, but if the camera was disclosed, it was not against the rules. If he wasn’t made aware of the device, then it was.

Unfortunately, not everyone sticks to the rules, whether intentionally or not.

For travellers concerned about being secretly filmed while staying in an Airbnb or other rental, there are a number of ways you can check for cameras, ensuring peace of mind while enjoying your getaway.

how to, amazon, how to find hidden cameras in your airbnb – or anywhere

Some cameras are more obvious than others (Picture: Getty)

How to check for hidden cameras in an Airbnb property

  1. The easiest way to find hidden cameras is an old-school sweep. Turn off all the lights and sweep a flashlight or your phone’s torch around the room. Go slowly, and look out for a glint of light as any camera lenses reflect the torchlight back.
  2. Check items that could easily hide a camera, such as alarm clocks, shower heads or smoke detectors.
  3. Worried about two-way mirrors? There are a number of ways to check. Firstly see if the mirror lifts off the wall to check behind. Secondly, try the fingernail test. With a regular mirror, your fingernail and its reflection shouldn’t be able to touch. If they can, it could be a two-way mirror. Alternatively, turn all the lights out and shine your torch at the mirror. If you can only see the light’s reflection, it is probably a regular mirror. If it’s two-way, you may be able to see the area behind.
  4. Cameras may use infrared to detect movement in low light – and your phone can help spot this too. To test if it can, use a TV remote or similar and point it at the camera. Look out for a small, purple/pink light, which may be flashing or steady, on both the front and back cameras. Now you know what infrared looks like, turn out all the lights again and scan the room, looking for similar lights.
  5. If you’re regularly travelling, you may want to invest in a professional lens hunter, available from around £50.
  6. If you have access to the property’s WiFi, do a scan to see which devices are connected – but remember, the property may have more than one network, and not all cameras need to be online. 
  7. If the property has a smart home device, such as an Amazon Echo Show or Google Nest Hub, check the camera tab to see if it is being monitored. 

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