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The rapid growth of home rental platforms like Airbnb has significantly transformed the way we vacation, but there may also be negative consequences.
In recent years, there have been numerous reports of vacationers discovering secret cameras in the homes they rented, sparking concerns about the security of staying in an unfamiliar residence.
In November, a 41-year-old man named Ian Timbrell discovered a camera hidden in between two sofa cushions at the Airbnb rental he had booked for his stay.
He shared his experience on Twitter/X by posting a photo of himself pointing at the camera. The caption read, “Is it normal or weird? My Airbnb has a webcam monitoring the entire living room. Is it wrong for me to unplug it? It feels like a major violation of privacy!”
A Chinese couple on their honeymoon in Malaysia in October 2023 reported their Airbnb homestay being disturbed by a hidden camera they discovered pointed at their bed.
The couple, known as “Zhenmei Beauty” on the Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu, claimed that a camera had been placed in a wall power socket in their house in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
According to a report from South China Morning Post, the discovery of the suspicious device has sparked a police inquiry and resulted in travel advisories. Experts are also offering advice on how to prevent being monitored while on vacation.
In July 2023, a couple sued an Airbnb host for $75,000 after discovering hidden cameras recording them during their stay, mirroring a previous incident.
In August 2022, a couple from Texas, Kayelee Gates and her fiancé Christian Capraro, rented a vacation home in Silver Springs, Maryland owned by Christoper Goisse. While engaging in intimate activity in the bathroom, they discovered hidden cameras recording them. They then moved to the main room, where they laid on the bed and watched a movie to relax. Upon looking up at the ceiling, they noticed two smoke detectors – one above the bed and one in the corner.
As they approached the devices to examine them, they observed what seemed to be concealed cameras and were persuaded that they discovered an additional one in the bathroom. They removed one device from the bedroom and claimed to have discovered a recording camera. Ms. Gates expressed feelings of shame, humiliation, dishonor, and loss of respect after the occurrence.
Should we now be inspecting for cameras in our vacation rentals? And if yes, how should we do so?
“According to Keith Roberts, a technician at Advanced Sweeping which specializes in bug detection for individuals and businesses, it is important to stay alert and aware of potential risks. He emphasizes the presence of malicious individuals in our society.”
According to him, the amount of hidden cameras that Advanced Sweeping uncovers has risen in recent years.
“Surveillance equipment, such as cameras and eavesdropping devices, has become increasingly common in today’s society. In the past, these were only available in a limited market and required personal connections to obtain. However, they are now readily accessible through online retailers like Amazon or eBay.”
Roberts recommends hiring a professional company to ensure that you are not being recorded, but there are also steps a non-expert can take to detect hidden cameras.
Look around you
“According to Roberts, when searching for cameras, one should focus on small openings where the lens may be located. It is recommended to check everyday objects such as book bindings, mirrors, light fixtures, and even houseplants. Additionally, it is logical to search in areas where someone may have placed a device if they were seeking information. If the intention was to spy, likely spots would be places where people disrobe, such as the bathroom, shower, and bedroom.”
“Ensure to survey areas with unobstructed views, preferably at a higher elevation, to maximize the filming potential.”
Shine a torch
You do not have to possess the abilities of Inspector Gadget in order to thoroughly check for hidden cameras. A simple flashlight, like the one on your phone, can get the job done. According to Roberts, using a flashlight to search for a camera lens is about 92 to 95 percent effective. Turn off all the lights and slowly shine the flashlight around the entire room – any camera lenses will reflect the light back.
Check the mirror
Concerned that the mirror could potentially be a two-way mirror? There is an easy method to confirm this. According to Roberts, the fingernail test, while outdated, is still effective. Simply place your fingernail against the glass. If you are unable to touch your finger in the reflection, then it is a legitimate mirror. However, if you are able to reach your own finger in the reflection, this is a red flag and suggests that it is a two-way mirror.
Consider investing in a detection device.
Although Advanced Sweeping spends a significant amount of money on high-quality device detectors, there are more affordable options available for purchase. According to Roberts, there are lens hunters that can be bought for as little as £40 to £50. Investing in one of these may provide a sense of security.
Scan for webcams
There are two primary categories of surveillance cameras: those that save footage onto an SD card and those that are linked to the internet. To locate internet-connected webcams, you can search for them by connecting to the host’s wi-fi and utilizing a free network scanner. In reply to Jason Scott’s latest story about camera surveillance, Dr. Adam Glen tweeted: “Usually, hosts grant access to their local network through wifi. Use @fingapp to scan for IP cameras on the network. While not completely reliable, this method can provide some indication.”
In case you discover any irregularities (considering that the host may have valid external security cameras), disconnect the internet router to ensure that you are not being monitored.
In case you come across a concealed camera, instead of just voicing your concerns to the booking company, make sure to report it to the police.