Airbnb hosts not allowed to have indoor cameras anymore, but will they comply?

North Portugal, office of a digital nomad on kitchen table

Vacation home booking platform Airbnb says over 5 million hosts provide accommodation for travelers across the globe through its online system. Many of these hosts are renting their villas, houses or apartments, and want to protect their properties with security cameras. When visitors find hidden cameras in bedrooms, bathrooms or living rooms, they are not happy. For years, hidden cameras have been reported in Airbnb apartments by news media, multiple cases reported by The Atlantic, and even a livestreaming spy camera discovered in an Airbnb apartment in Ireland. Now, Airbnb has announced that April 30th, 2024 rules for hosts will change. No cameras are allowed inside rental apartments.

Airbnb updated their policy for the hosts, saying: “The update to this policy simplifies our approach and makes clear that security cameras are not allowed inside listings, regardless of their location, purpose or prior disclosure.”

Security cameras outdoors are allowed, but they have to be mentioned in the listing. Outdoors cameras are not allowed to film anything indoors. Decibel monitors that measure noise level are allowed, but recording voices is forbidden.

It certainly took a long while from Airbnb to draft these simple rules that respect basic privacy expectations. Will Airbnb holiday apartments be safe and respect visitors’ privacy from now on? Don’t count on it.

Why Airbnb hosts have been able to monitor their guests with cameras for so long? Because hosts are more important for Airbnb than visitors. Hosts are the business partners for Airbnb who enable the online business model to scale to millions of listings, and to billions of dollars. As travelers have painfully realized, Airbnb favors hosts, for instance, in conflict situations between guests and hosts. It is a choice of business strategy for Airbnb.

Another reason why I don’t trust that spy cameras in Airbnb rentals will disappear is that no one controls and monitors the policies and requirements the rental platform sets for the hosts. Airbnb trusts what the hosts inform to the platform, and that’s it. Of course, guests can report to Airbnb their worries, mistakes in information provided, and potential mishandling by the host, but guess who has the upper hand in disputes?

Here is a long read of direct and indirect consequences of Airbnb’s business model on the life of local people and on the many ways holidays can turn sour with a shady host.