Traveling for business or pleasure? An Airbnb can be a great alternative to a hotel.
Airbnbs often offer more space, for comparatively less – and come nicely furnished, often including a full kitchen.
But, just about anyone can be an Airbnb host.
And – you might have privacy concerns because the fact of the matter is that Airbnb allows hosts to have security and recording devices (hidden cameras) in their rentals.
According to the rules, Airbnb hosts are required to disclose these recording devices to renters. Additionally they aren’t allowed to have them in private spaces – like bedrooms and bathrooms – regardless of whether they are disclosed or not.
But, there have been many recent news stories of this very thing happening.
What’s the best approach to ensure your privacy in an Airbnb?
How can you protect yourself from these spy gadgets?
First, you should definitely ask the host – Are there any security or recording devices in use?
But secondly, you should trust but verify.
We’ll talk here about how you can find hidden cameras in your airbnb.
Ways to Find Hidden Cameras – Physical Inspection
The simplest way to find hidden cameras – simply look for them.
But – aren’t they hidden? Yes, but that doesn’t make them invisible.
After all, they still need to have a clear view of whatever the owner is attempting to record.
Overt cameras like the Arlo series of cameras should be easy to see. They stand out well.
Look for objects out of the ordinary that have any lens or other aperature that you wouldn’t normally expect.
Some common hidden camera devices look like a clock, smoke alarm, or child’s toy.
Secondly, look near sources of electricity.
Recording video can be motion activated to prevent battery drain, but still takes a lot of electrical power.
Therefore, it is likely any such device is hard wired to power.
Having said that, there are security cameras with Lithium Ion batteries that can run for weeks.
How might you find such a device? You could use a IR Camera to look for an unusual heat signature.
Any electronic device is going to be slightly warmer than the ambient temperature.
But, I’m going to guess that you don’t have one of those.
Again, remember that the device must have a clear view of a wide area – so that should give you some hints about where to look.
Night vision cameras normally use near invisible Infra Red light.
True night vision technology that can work only with ambient light are quite expensive.
Much more common is technology that uses an IR light illuminator / projector.
That IR light is reflected off objects and is picked up by the camera.
These cameras usually (but not always) give off a tell-tale feint red glow in the dark.
So, take careful note of these sort of things when checking your Airbnb.
Where to Look For Hidden Cameras
Where should you look?
Both indoors and outdoors.
We gave you lots of great ideas to look for indoor cameras in the previous section.
So, let’s talk about cameras outside.
Outdoors expect any entrance (or exit) to the house will be covered.
Also look for external cameras pointed in – that might be able to peer through a window.
Computer Networking and Hidden Cameras
Most cameras and surveillance devices you will encounter will be relatively cheap devices meant for simple home use.
This means they will likely use the home Wi-Fi system to communicate.
This is especially true of the latest “IoT” (Internet of Things) devices.
This can provide a remote surveillance capability in real time, or may be how the device records video (recording to the cloud).
If you have a reasonable amount of computer networking skill, you can use the nmap command to scan the network for all devices.
That’s a bit of an advanced technique, so we won’t deep dive into it here.
That works great on your laptop computer, but for your phone there is another option.
You can scan the wireless network in hotels and airBnB’s using Fing. It runs on iPhone and Android and a free version that is adequate is available.
If you know how to use nmap, you’ll know how to use it to find network connected cameras.
With all that in mind, the simplest approach might be to turn off the Wi-Fi/Router.
Lastly, there are hidden camera devices that don’t use Wi-Fi – but they do use other forms of radio signals instead (or even cellular – like a phone!).
You’d need a special detector to find those.
Counter Surveillance Techniques in an Airbnb
Found something suspicious?
Cover it – block the suspected lens or aperture.
Unplug it – if it has a plug. There are battery operated cameras, but most that are intended for running for long durations are hardwired to power.
Turn off the Internet router/Wi-fi – This isn’t guaranteed to stop the device from recording, but it certainly will prevent “real time” surveillance from a remote connection – in most cases.
These techniques won’t work for every device, in every situation – but hopefully this has given you some ideas.
Finding Hidden Cameras in your Airbnb – In Summary
We hope this article has helped raise your awareness about the possibility of threats to your privacy in your Airbnb (or hotel room!).
Your best approach is to simply ask the host.
But, regardless of the answer – a quick physical check of the premises will probably locate most devices.
You just have to know what to look for.