Cameras pose privacy concern in rental homes

(NBC News) — Keeping an eye on your home is easier and more affordable than ever thanks to web-connected cameras and smart home devices.

It’s also raising privacy concerns, especially for travelers renting vacation homes.

Rental site Airbnb says hosts are allowed to have surveillance devices in common areas and in plain sight.

Hidden cameras are not allowed, and cameras of any kind are not allowed in bedroom or bathroom areas, regardless of disclosure.

“The things they do have to do though is ensure they clearly communicated that to the guest, and also have it disclosed within their listing page,” says Airbnb’s Ali Killam.

According to Airbnb’s policy, any surveillance device should be listed in the “house rules” section, but owners don’t always follow those rules.

Discovering an undisclosed camera left guest Paige Blair unsettled.

“I turned to leave the kitchen and there was a camera,” she recalls.

“When you’re booking you want to look at the photos extremely carefully, and you want to look at the listing extremely carefully,” warns CNET’s Alfred Ng.

Modern web-connected cameras and video doorbells may be hard to spot.

“They don’t look like CCTV camera that you see at a corner store,” Ng notes.

Panasonic is marketing a lamp with a built-in camera, and smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo Show can act as surveillance devices.

It’s a good idea to ask the host ahead of time if there are any cameras, and if you find an undisclosed device, report it.

“Those reports are taken very seriously and those actors are removed from the platform,” Killam says.

According to Airbnb, if a host discloses a camera after booking, the guest can cancel and receive a full refund.

Categories: National News