Family Finds Hidden Camera at Airbnb Rental, Starts Panicking

Family Finds Hidden Camera at Airbnb Rental, Starts Panicking
Airbnb logo display in Paris, France, on Aug. 29, 2018. (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

A family was shocked to find a hidden camera at their Airbnb rental and reported it to the company.

The New Zealand family was on vacation in Ireland when a family member discovered the camera while trying to connect to Wi-Fi.

Nealie Barker’s husband Andrew is an IT consultant. When he scanned for Wi-Fi, he noticed a connection called IP camera.

“He scanned that device’s ports and found the live video feed. We were all watching ourselves on his mobile phone,” Barker told Stuff.

The couple was able to locate the camera in the living room area. The camera had a view of the living room, dining room, and kitchen.

Barker panicked upon the discovery, to the degree that she felt “that horrible adrenaline rush you get when you sense danger.”

“It was late at night, but we decided fairly quickly we didn’t feel comfortable about staying at the house,” she told Stuff.

She and the family left the Airbnb rental and stayed at a nearby hotel. Barker said she eventually spoke to the rental host about the camera.

“There is no way to know whether the camera was recording. We asked the host but he refused to answer. We also asked if it was recording audio, again he refused to answer,” Barker said.

The host then hung up the phone on them.

“He later called back and admitted there was only one hidden camera and that he had installed it to ‘protect his asset,’” Barker told Stuff.

Barker also contacted Airbnb, but felt ignored. She said there was “a total lack of transparency around their investigation process.”

Barker expressed her concern on how the case was being handled in a Facebook post.


Posted by Nealie Barker on Monday, April 1, 2019

“We just found a camera hidden in a smoke alarm case in the private living room of a listing. We were traveling with children.

“The host admitted to the concealed camera over the phone, only after presented with our irrefutable proof.

“The Airbnb safety team investigated our complaint (we provided photos and snapshot of video feed). Their ‘thorough’ investigation which didn’t include any follow-up with us exonerated the host, no explanation provided. The listing (with hidden camera not mentioned) is still on Airbnb.

“The host is now claiming our accusation is false on the public platform.”

A commenter on the Facebook post expressed views from the perspective of a landlord, but still agreed with the Barkers.

“As a landlord whose renters have trashed property, I kind of understand wanting to keep tabs. ‘It wasn’t us who put a hole in your wall.’ But not being upfront and lying makes this situation way out of bounds. You’re handling this appropriately IMHO. And, no I don’t have any hidden cameras on my property still, but I am considering a security doorbell and outdoors surveillance,” commented Patrick Murphy.

Barker provided a picture of her family taken through the hidden camera, as her husband was able to hack the camera and capture the image.

An Airbnb spokesman said the company prohibits hidden cameras and goes after violators of the policy. The company also admitted fault in how they dealt with the Barker family and told Stuff that the host was no longer on the platform.

“Our original handling of this incident did not meet the high standards we set for ourselves, and we have apologised to the family and fully refunded their stay,” Airbnb stated, via Stuff.

Airbnb policy doesn’t restrict cameras outright but prohibits hidden cameras, as well as those in the bathroom or bedroom.

According to The Atlantic, hidden cameras are not an uncommon problem at Airbnb rentals.

When Max Vest discovered two cameras at an Airbnb rental in Florida, he panicked.

“I didn’t know if I was being watched live,” Vest told The Atlantic. “What I’ve found since is that [the cameras] record to a memory card, but they can also stream live. The host could’ve been watching. Anybody could have been watching.”

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