Chilling problem with this Airbnb photo
AN Airbnb guest says he was shocked to discover a video camera in a room of the property - before being asked what he was trying to hide when he questioned it.
American university professor Jeffrey Bigham said he and his family were spending the New Year's break at the Airbnb property in Seattle.
It took a full day until they noticed something strange on the corner of one of the rooms, near the ceiling - a white object they realised was a video camera.
Prof Bigham said they found a similar camera in another room.
While the Airbnb listing mentioned the property was fitted with cameras "at the entrance", he said these cameras "were clearly not" at the entrance.
"I was shocked, and immediately unplugged them," he wrote in a blog post about the unsettling experience.
"I don't think we did anything particularly weird in front of that camera, but it's very likely that my two-year-old ran in front of this camera naked (the field of view of the camera was close to the exit of the bathroom)."
The holiday-maker said when he contacted Airbnb about the camera, he was told as the photo posted above was on the listing, that was considered proper disclosure.
But things got stranger when the host was tipped off about the issue.
"Airbnb told my host we asked about the cameras, he sent someone to snoop on us, he left us a bad review," Prof Bigham said.
He also said the host sent him a bizarre message about why he'd unplugged the device.
It read: "Indeed you did dismantle our security system after Airbnb rejected your clem (sic) what were you trying to hide on New Year's Eve."
This isn't the first time cameras have been discovered by disturbed guests in Airbnb rentals.
In September, a Scottish couple staying in Toronto, Canada said they found a hidden spy camera in a clock that was pointed towards the bed.
The previous year, an American couple found a hidden camera in the bedroom of their Airbnb rental in Florida.
"I'm not sure what to take from this, but it's scary," Prof Bigham said.
"If I ever really have to stay in an Airbnb again, I guess I'll be taking a much closer look at all the photos, or maybe just explicitly ask my host to confirm there are no cameras inside the home."
He told news.com.au since he shared his experience in his blog post and on Twitter, Airbnb had refunded the cost of his stay.
He said the company admitted "representatives I talked to were confused or mistaken".
"Since posting this, I have heard from many people, both guests and hosts," he told news.com.au.
"The issue of Wi-Fi cameras, privacy, etc, is deeply affecting Airbnb's users. No one really seems to know what they're doing and it seems like it's only going to get worse."
In a statement to news.com.au, Airbnb said it had apologised to Prof Bigham and removed the host from the platform.
"We require hosts to clearly disclose any security cameras in writing on their listings and we have strict standards governing surveillance devices in listings. This host has been removed from our community," the statement said.
Cameras and other forms of surveillance must always be disclosed in Airbnb listings, but photos alone are not considered sufficient disclosure.
Surveillance equipment is never allowed in private spaces like bathrooms and sleeping areas.
Last year Airbnb introduced a feature making hosts disclose surveillance devices and guests acknowledge and agree to them being there before booking the property.
Prof Bigham said while he understood cameras were helpful for hosts trying to recover the cost of damage caused by guests, there were wider issues for everyone to remember.
"All of us need to think carefully about how we will live in an increasingly surveilled world. Just because it's so easy to record everything now doesn't mean we should," he said.