How to check your Airbnb, Vrbo for hidden cameras

(NEXSTAR) — Are you being spied on in your Airbnb or Vrbo rental?

This is a common concern in the short-term rental economy.

A civil lawsuit was filed in Kendall County, Texas last week after a couple said landlords taped them for ‘intimate and private times’ while renting their property in August 2020. One of the owners has been arrested and officials say their investigation uncovered other illegally recorded explicit images of different guests.

Despite how sneaky some hidden camera tricks are, there are plenty of ways to detect them.

How to check hidden cameras

Expert Marcus Hutchins, whose cybersecurity advice TikTok account @malwaretech has more than 425,000 followers, says a quick way to find a hidden camera is to shine a light inside anything with holes. For example, hold your phone’s flashlight over a smoke detector or air conditioning vent – all the lenses inside will give off a bluish glow. Hutchins explains that hidden cameras can be hidden in shower heads and even power outlets.

Shining lights on mirrors or other mirrored objects will also reveal camera lenses hidden behind glass, Hutchins says.

Meanwhile, Michael O’Rourke, managing director of global security consulting firm Advanced Operational Concepts, previously outlined some of his tips for The Washington Post.

O’Rourke says he unplugs next to the clocks/alarm clocks and puts them in a drawer. Then he says he covers the peepholes in the doors and covers the cracks under the doors just in case and the camera lenses can see through from the outside.

Another tactic suggested by some experts is to completely disconnect your rental’s wifi, although this may go against your host’s rules, in addition to possibly causing other problems for connected (non-invasive) devices.

The Fing smartphone app is also known for its ability to search for hidden cameras on its own.

Short-term camera rental policies

Only cameras and recording devices that are clearly visible in common areas and disclosed prior to guest reservations are permitted, per Airbnb‘s camera policies. The company also explicitly states that “common areas” do not not include sleeping areas or bathrooms – not even living rooms with sofa beds.

Vrbo’s privacy policy explains that surveillance devices are anything that captures photos and videos, but also geolocation and personally identifiable information. Surveillance of Internet data by hosts is also considered surveillance. Devices are not permitted inside a property, although guests are permitted to use security devices outside the property. All recording devices must be disclosed to guests in advance.

If you believe you have been or are being monitored without your consent, you should contact the company you rented from.

Comments are closed.