How to Scan Your Airbnb for Hidden Cameras

from Slate

Over the weekend, news outlets reported that a New Zealand man named Andrew Barker had found a camera, hidden in a smoke detector, in his Airbnb that was livestreaming a feed of the living room. Barker was in Cork, Ireland, on a 14-month trip around Europe with his family when they checked into the rental house. Once they unpacked, Barker, who works in IT security, conducted a scan of the Wi-Fi network and found a camera the owner had not mentioned. He was then able to connect to the camera and view the live feed.

The next day, the Barkers notified Airbnb, but he told the media that the company treated the incident like a canceled booking and just temporarily suspended the rooming post after a privacy investigation that the family found unsatisfactory. It wasn’t until Nealie Barker, Andrew’s wife, posted details of the incident on Facebook that Airbnb removed the listing and admitted that the original response “did not meet the high standards we set for ourselves.”

Airbnb’s terms of service dictate that hosts must disclose the presence of cameras to their guests. It’s unclear how common a practice it is for Airbnb hosts to hide cameras in their units, but if you’re particularly worried about prying eyes, there are imperfect ways to search for invasive devices. “Hidden cameras are probably rare but there are steps that an average user can take to increase their chances of finding one if one exists,” Barker wrote in an email to Slate. “Since our incident I will be performing network and ports scans at every accommodation we stay at.”
That seems like a good practice. But it also requires some knowledge. When the story hit the internet, lots of people found themselves wondering how, exactly, to scan a network. The good news is that doing network and port scans for suspicious devices on the local Wi-Fi network doesn’t require as much technical knowledge as you might fear. Nor does it require expensive gear.

More here.

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14 Responses to How to Scan Your Airbnb for Hidden Cameras

  1. Edward Holzel April 26, 2019 at 12:27 pm #

    The rise of Airbnb for home renting has been a great service. People can just sign up on Airbnb and assuming everything about their home is ok then they can rent their home easily. My friends at Wake Forest just went on a trip to Florida over spring break and used Airbnb to find a home relatively cheap. The rise of Airbnb is similar to the rise of Uber. People with material objects, cars, and homes can sell the services of those objects through an online service to gain revenue. It also makes it a lot easier for consumers to get these services. Overall, the rise of Airbnb and Uber is allowing people to have easy access to transportation and a place to rent.
    As great as Airbnb is by providing easy access to homes and cheaply, there are some drawbacks. Airbnb has just had an issue with privacy. Some Airbnb homeowners had placed cameras in their home that they are renting to monitor the renters. These cameras are being found without the renter’s consent. Obviously, the renters were extremely upset and took to the internet to express their displeasure. The question is should homeowners be able to videotape their renters. Or can Uber drivers videotape their customers without consent? The answers to both of those ethical and legal are no. You can not legally videotape anyone without consent. They can get away with videotaping if the Uber driver and/or Airbnb homeowner makes it clear that they can videotape. However, morally videotaping customers just seems invasive and unnecessary. Do you really need to videotape people when you are renting out your home? If you cannot have the slightest bit of trust or decency to inform the customers then you should not be renting out your home or vehicle.

  2. Alexander Dornbierer April 26, 2019 at 3:35 pm #

    Privacy is an important aspect in our personal lives. We step outside of public gatherings for some conversations, have private tabs open in our safari browsers, and have VPN protect our internet security. You would expect the same courtesy with your living accommodations when you stay away from your home. With the news article discussing the use of hidden cameras in Airbnb’s and hotels you cannot be sure about your privacy anywhere you go. By searching for the hidden cameras with the apps listed, looking for out of place items, such as stuffed animals, smoke detectors, and other household objects, or shining a light around to see if anything reflects the lights. Hidden Cameras have been apart of many a movie scene where they are hidden in plain sight. With movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street, Honey I Shrunk Ourselves, and many more. Hidden cameras are fun in movies and in video games but have no place being used in business, especially in two-party consent states. 11 out of the 50 states in America are two-party consent. Meaning that all parties present in a recording must consent to be recorded. An example is the movie Jackass or Bad Grandpa, they would shoot some of the scenes on the public streets. Because they were a two-party consent state, they had to blur the faces out of the people in the back because they didn’t consent to being recorded. Now it may have added to the comedic levels of the movies, they would have gotten in a lot of trouble if they didn’t blur out the faces. The two-party consent states that had the Airbnb scandal could result in harsh punishments. If a conversation is being recorded between a husband and a wife in their Airbnb and neither of them, let alone one of them, gave consent they would be breaking the law and risk putting themselves out of business and into jail.

  3. Cameron Lindley April 26, 2019 at 5:15 pm #

    Yet another article exposing privacy and technology. I think what is more concerning than learning how to scan for cameras, is that the cameras are there in the first place. When I rent an Airbnb, I expect to be able to treat it as if it were my home, just as I would do in a hotel. I value privacy highly, thus when I see these type of exposures, it really ticks me. People who rent their homes on Airbnb are already accepting all of the risks that come along with renting a house to strangers when they list their house, and Airbnb has numerous protocols in place to protect the home-owners. Therefore the fact that someone would hide a camera during a guest’s stay is rather troubling to me. Creepy at the least. After reading how Airbnb handled the European incident and considering my trust issues in privacy, I think it is definitely worth taking the time to learn how to scan for hidden cameras. I don’t want to say that a majority of Airbnb renters hide cameras, but on the off chance that I ended up staying in one where they did, I would want to know about it.
    The rise of technology in the world has increased its accessibility tremendously, to a point where people with an average understanding in technology can now perform what once used to seem as an advanced task. It will be interesting to see over the next few years the gains made in accessibility to technology. The accessibility and practicality of advanced technology holds it back from public use a fair bit, but if the rise in technology can bring with it simplifications for the public, that would be a significant advancement.
    I personally do not know how to scan a network for suspicious devices, but I think I could manage that, and definitely should.

  4. Rachel Leto April 26, 2019 at 5:56 pm #

    When I first heard about Airbnb, I was kind of sketched out and confused. A person is willing to stay in a stranger’s house just because it is cheaper than a hotel. I, personally, would never do it because some people are not trust worthy and this is a prime example of that. At this point, I have never heard of something more disgusting in my life. Hidden cameras in smoke detectors? This has most likely happened to so many people without them knowing and that is very upsetting. People probably thought that it was so absurd that it would never happen to them. Today, privacy is something that seems to be very hard to find when it comes to the internet and platforms selling your data to make money. The last thing I would want stripped away from me would be my privacy taken away from behind closed doors.
    It was lucky that Baker found the camera on a WiFi scan otherwise he would have never found the camera. The fact that it is very easy to be able to find these cameras is great. The only issue is that there are still people that do not know about these kinds of things. It is so important to be educated and know the steps to take to know how to keep yourself safe. It is very unsettling to know that the company Airbnb did not take a more serious action on the matter. They, temporarily, suspended the room, so that an investigation could take place instead of not allowing the man to host people anymore. It is time to take action and protect yourself and the fact that there are apps to help with that makes it that much easier. He, also, mentioned to take a scan around the room to see if there is anything that is out of place, like two smoke detectors in one room. All off these precautions can help you stay safe when staying away from home, even use them in hotels to make sure no one was tampering with the room.

  5. Demetri Allen April 26, 2019 at 6:27 pm #

    To me, the very concept of Airbnb amazes me. It is 100% because of this new age of digital transformation that one of the largest hotel companies in the world owns zero property. That is just astounding, but unfortunately not having any ownership of the property comes at a cost. That cost is the extent of the customer. These reports of homeowners placing hidden cameras inside their Airbnb reveal how a system like this can be easily exploited. Obviously, in the terms and conditions of Airbnb, a homeowner must disclose information about the residence including if there are any cameras on the premises. The problem here is that with the way Airbnb is set up there is really not much they can do from preventing this sort of thing from happening. After all, the house does not belong to them and since the homeowner knows the house better than anyone it is quite easy for situations like this to occur. This is why moving towards a shared economy might come with some risks. Yes, it is amazing that I could be anywhere and call an Uber to pick me up, but when that driver goes on a blatant racist rant or they are a sexual predator well then it seems I am just out of luck on that ride. The problem is that these people are not truly employees they are just people doing a job. Most people with a driver’s license and a car can be an Uber driver and most people with a house could put it up on Airbnb. What I am trying to say is that there should be more criteria for hiring if we are really moving forward with this idea of a shared economy to make sure that we are working with the right people and not just any random person who could be a serial killer.

  6. Jon Sozer April 26, 2019 at 8:33 pm #

    Just as Uber revolutionized public transportation – surpasses the average daily usage of the famous yellow taxicab in NYC – Airbnb did the same for the temporary residency industry, surpassing Hilton’s annual sales in 2018. Personally I have yet to use Airbnb, but I have been talking with some friends about visiting Canada for a week in the summer, so the article presented is more relevant than ever now. Airbnb is an interesting idea, where house owners rent out their empty homes for periods of time specified by them, allowing for visitors to stay over in their home as they would for a hotel. Understandably, homeowners opening their homes to strangers to stay in overnight, and for extended periods of time, can feel hesitant to leave their homes without any security safeguards. I would think that the homeowners are well within their right to have security cameras about in their homes to help combat theft, but things get a little tricky when the existence of the cameras isn’t disclosed. Hiding cameras within one’s house without letting the guests know beforehand smells strongly of invasion of privacy, something that is sorely lacking already in our society. So, I’m torn. One one hand, I respect the homeowner’s intentions of keeping their property and belongings safe, but I also feel for the renters and their privacy. Overall, should there just had been a warning about cameras, then I feel like the situation would be much more collected and less of an uproar against the homeowner.

  7. Tyler Graham April 26, 2019 at 8:48 pm #

    Airbnb is an interesting company to talk about. From a tourist perspective, it’s a dream come true. Cheap, easy to book, “homey” housing. At its core it makes you feel less like a tourist. On top of that it is way more in tune with a location than a hotel or motel could ever dream to be. But Airbnb has seen properties that would otherwise be rented through conventional means removed from the market just to be put on Airbnb. It also sees an increase in conventional renting prices since landowners figure they could make more from an Airbnb. But that is only one of the latest controversies that surround Airbnb. The most recent one – as this article describes, is the use of hidden cameras. Some people seem to have an issue with cameras being used at all in Airbnbs, but I will disagree. I see no issue with a camera being put in a kitchen or common area to ensure that (god forbid) if something is destroyed, there is clear evidence of such. But these cameras must be disclosed. Hiding cameras, especially in sensitive rooms (bathrooms, bedrooms) is truly disgusting and I shouldn’t even have to say what the purpose of those cameras would be. Hopefully this will make people more aware of the places they’re staying in. It will also be excellent for Hotels, and I’m more than sure their marketing teams will have a field day with this news. What is most disgusting about all of this is that there are probably many more camera-filled Airbnbs that just haven’t been detected. I know for a fact that after reading this I will not be staying in any Airbnb anytime soon.

  8. Rayzan Alarashi April 29, 2019 at 9:09 pm #

    Personally, I have never used Airbnb when traveling but I am aware of its large influence and power in the hospitality industry. In my opinion, hotels will eventually become a thing of the past for many since Airbnb provides travelers with more space at cheaper rates. Hearing the incident in where an individual found a camera planted in their Airbnb that was secretly recording is no surprise to me. Privacy has become and will remain to be the biggest concern in our society today. This incident should a big indication to society that our privacy is at a large risk of being tampered with. Had that particular individual in the Airbnb not worked IT security, he would have never taken the necessary precaution which led to him finding the camera. Speaking for most, there aren’t many people today who are capable of being able to scan a network in order to find suspicious devices such as cameras recording them. I highly doubt that the thought of a secret camera recording people in their Airbnb would ever even cross peoples mind because it almost seems as if its something out of a movie. I for once know that if I’m ever put in the situation where I need to rent out an Airbnb, the first thing I plan on doing before even unpacking my bags is checking to see if there are hidden cameras I don’t know about. I’ve even downloaded the necessary app (network scanner) to do so. To my surprise, the whole process is a lot easier than what I initially expected. All it takes is connecting to a WiFi network through apps like network scanner, and then it automatically tells you all the devices that are connected to that particular network. From there, you can review each device and look for any suspicious names or devices. It’s scary to think about, but there are many people out there who find joy in invading people’s privacy and they often are never even caught. After reading this article, I’m convinced everyone will begin taking these precautions to protect their privacy, but it still disturbs to think that if something like this were to happen to me in the past, I would never have known.

  9. Allya Jaquez May 3, 2019 at 9:55 am #

    What is wrong with people trying to invade other peoples privacy! I think it is pretty ridiculous that now we have to make sure there are no hidden cameras anywhere we plan on staying. But thank goodness for Andrew Barker who had experience and was able to find the camera hiding in the living room of the Airbnb. An Airbnb is a definitely a little more cheaper than a hotel and it is becoming more common for individuals. Because Mr. Barker was experienced in the IT field, he was able to speak our and protect his family before they were to be exposed. I do not see a purpose in hiding a camera in the living room of an Airbnb. We never know what the individual behind the camera will do with the footage and it is just mind blowing to me. I am very surprised that the process to check for hidden cameras is easy. You just use the Network Scanner app and it automatically tells you all the devices that are being used through WiFi. I am definitely going to download this app because I would not want to be watched by anyone. I am so glad this article was posted because it definitely shocked me a little but now I am more aware.

  10. Daibelis Acevedo May 3, 2019 at 11:59 am #

    This is the first that I hear about Airbnb guests finding cameras in their apartments. Aaron Mark writes about a few Airbnb incidents that have occurred where a guests figures out that the owner of the apartment or home has left a camera hooked up to maybe a smoke detector or even a remote control. It’s scary to think that this is actually happening in the world and nothing is ever too safe. Since this is the first, I hear of this, I have stayed in Airbnb apartments before but never even assumed that there could be a camera watching my every move. That may be a little oblivious and naïve of me but now that I think about this and can learn about people that have experienced it, I know next time I do stay at one of these places, I will take in account the pointers shared in this article. One of the most important things to remember as a guest are your rights, “Airbnb’s terms of service dictate that hosts must disclose the presence of cameras to their guests” (Mark). This is one of those things that everyone just assumes the owner would disclose because who would leave a camera and not mention it? It’s extremely upsetting to think there are people that do this and just hope that the guests will not find out. I really enjoyed reading this article and understanding more about scanning a network. It’s interesting how they made it a point to have readers understand that although it seems like a hard task to identify other networks, and to scan a network, it is actually a lot easier than it sounds. The pointers that were given are very helpful especially since summer is coming up and people tend to go away and use Airbnb more than ever. It’s important to remember that for a guest if they do find a camera, action should be taken immediately. It was very disappointing to hear that when the company Airbnb found out that one of the owners had a camera in their home, it was pretty much pushed under the rug and ignored. Of course, this kind of announcement and news can completely plunge the demand for Airbnb and people will be afraid to even book their next vacation at a stranger’s home. I am thankful I was able to read this article and open my mind to the possibilities, this will make me more aware of my surroundings.

  11. Divyaa Sarin May 3, 2019 at 5:09 pm #

    I have never rented out an Airbnb before, and after reading this article I definitely won’t. As technology as advances, there is no such thing as privacy. I find it completely ridiculous how there have been several cases of cameras being found in Airbnb’s. It seems like the company instilled hidden cameras to make sure nothing in the rental would be destroyed or damaged. However, witnessing actions like people naked, is foolish! After reading the title of the article, I immediately thought why would there be a need to detect cameras in an Airbnb? There shouldn’t be any cameras or spyware in a rental room. Hotels and motels don’t have camera’s in guests’ rooms, so why do Airbnb’s? It seems that this company is ignorant when it comes to privacy. However, many people still rent out Airbnb’s whenever they go on vacation or business trips.

    Personally, as I mentioned I never rented out an Airbnb, this is because I never really knew about the credibility of the company. In the past whenever I would go on vacations, I would stay in hotels that have been reviewed by others to ensure my safety. The article mentioned how the Airbnb company has gotten sued a couple times, no one really wants to go through all that litigation and stress. The idea of someone watching my every move while I am in a different place is quite taunting. If this were the case, the company should have warned individuals before staying in the room. However, I think this is still quite unpleasing. We need to be more aware of the places we stay at now these days. Privacy is slowly diminishing, as technology grows. With more technology, we should be aware of the consequences. I know that I don’t want to deal with these privacy issues in the future!

  12. Raymond Wilkinson IV May 3, 2019 at 6:09 pm #

    Another article exposing another incident of invaded privacy of consumers. It seems the list of incidents keeps growing and growing. I personally have rented a room on Airbnb and have been in many rooms rented by others. To see this incident is a little unnerving as I was never told by the host or owner that cameras were in use in the room. But after reading this article it seems whatever I am told means nothing as the guests in this situation were not notified of cameras either. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out cameras were being used in the rooms I stayed in. I feel the owners of the room use an excuse of being able to monitor their property in case of any issues, but this is still a major invasion of privacy. If I had the chance I would love to go back to these rooms and perform the network and port scans to see if cameras are in use. Considering the response Airbnb had to this incident I feel everyone should conduct these scans in any accommodation they stay at for their own privacy. Airbnb is a service that allows people to rent rooms that others own, this incident of hidden cameras being brings a not only a serious privacy concern but also the safety guests as well. With owners having the ability to live stream feed from the room anything could happen. From owners taking guests items to owners going into the rooms while the guests are sleeping. Overall this can not be the only incident of this issue. With advances in technology every day, everything becomes so accessible and easy to use. Guests of Airbnb need tighter safety and privacy rules.

  13. Kevin Metz May 3, 2019 at 7:40 pm #

    This article discusses an instance in which a man found a camera hidden in the smoke detector in his Airbnb. Since he works in IT security, he was able to scan the WiFi network which led to his discovery. When he notified Airbnb, the company did not take it very seriously until the man’s wife posted about the occurrence on Facebook. However, this is not the first-time people have reported finding hidden cameras in their Airbnb. There have been multiple reports of this happening. Airbnb’s terms of services states that renters must disclose the presence of any cameras with their guests. Clearly, this is not always followed. Realistically, how many people know how to scan a WiFi network in search for hidden cameras? The man who did the scan in this article gave various clues that may hint at there being hidden cameras. This includes there being two smoke detectors in one room. I find this to be absolutely disgusting that there are actually people in this world that think its okay to do such a thing. I’ve personally never stayed in an Airbnb, but after reading this article, I’d be hesitant to ever even considering doing so. Those who have reported such instances encourage others to take pictures and post on social media if they come across a hidden camera. Although I think it’s a shame people have to do this, it is better to do so before their privacy is violated. Now that more and more people are being made aware of this, I’m shocked the company is still up and running.

  14. Samantha Begley May 21, 2019 at 9:22 pm #

    Airbnb has been a constant conversation starter for my parents and I, from the talk of privacy to the availability Airbnb offers, older generations have been skeptical on the idea revolving around home sharing. Due to older generations their idea behind “stranger danger” has become a rule of thumb in their minds, the idea behind home sharing would be something my parents would never think of doing unless they felt as though their privacy and safety would never be interfered with. Due to articles like this, Airbnb’s reputation among different generations will continue to sway and it may crucially interfere with their business. As a college student studying business, I was required to look into startups such as Airbnb. I had researched the history of how this small business started along with all of the mistake’s CEO Brian Chesky has had to go through. Not only have they had privacy suspicion, but they have also had to deal with safety hazards such as a renter passing away due to the owner’s carbon monoxide detector not detecting a high level. Though this company has their flaws I feel as though Airbnb is still on the way to make a great way for upcoming generations to travel and have a more affordable way to rent a place to stay. Reading this article, makes me weary that this will never occur. It is a shame to see such a great idea be ruined by peoples urge to invade a stranger’s privacy, I feel as though If the camera is put into an area such as a bedroom (where someone is vulnerable) then this should not be allowed and some sort of enforcement on camera regulation should be set upon in the rules and regulations of Airbnb. But on the other hand, I believe it is okay to have cameras put in a location that is noticeable for renters and disclosed that there will be cameras throughout the rental property. To me if I offered strangers to stay in my home, I would like to make sure they do not ruin things inside my home, and if they do, I have proof that such things occurred. After reading this though I am happy to become more aware of the experiences people are having at some rental properties provided by Airbnb that will help me become more aware of my surroundings when I choose to stay in one of their rental properties.

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