DENVER (KDVR) — A viral video on TikTok is trending after a cyber security expert showed viewers how easy it is for Airbnb hosts and hotels to hide surveillance cameras in their properties without guests knowing.
Spy Catchers LLC, a professional technical surveillance countermeasures company, works with people to help track hidden devices such as surveillance cameras.
According to the business’ owner, Thomas Ham, work has doubled since the pandemic began.
Like in the TikTok video, Ham says guests who are staying at an Airbnb or a hotel can easily find any recording devices (if there are any), by shining a light into a hidden camera lens.
Experts, including Ham, say the camera lenses will reflect a blue or red color when hit with light.
The typical areas you should search include such devices as an alarm clock, smoke detector or showerhead.
Some experts also suggest downloading the free smartphone app, “Fing.”
“The ‘Fing App’ works if you have the WiFi password for the space you’re staying at. It will log on to that network and it will actually give you a listing of all the devices currently listed on that network. It tries its best to give you an idea of what each device is. Whether it’s a cellphone IP, cameras, things of that nature,” said Ham.
Ham offered another tip: When you first enter a rental property, turn off the WiFi and router.
If you get a call from the host letting you know the WiFi has been turned off, that could serve as a good segue to bring up a conversation about whether there are any cameras on the property.
Airbnb has rules in place to protect its guests from any hidden recording devices, which it defines as “any mechanism that can be used to capture or transmit audio, video, or still images.”
On its website and in its app, the company said it requires that everyone in the “Airbnb community respect each other’s privacy,” adding that hosts must reveal security cameras and other recording devices in their listings and refrain from adding them in private spaces such as bathrooms and bedrooms.
Airbnb also lists rules specifically for hosts and guests.
“If you’re a host and you have any type of security camera and/or other recording devices in or around a listing, even if it’s not turned on or hooked up, we require that you indicate its presence in the Things to know section under Health & safety. We also require you to disclose how guests will be monitored and if an active recording is taking place,” it said. Airbnb added that if a device is disclosed after booking, the guest can cancel the reservation and receive a refund.
“If you’re a guest, our Standards & Expectations require that you not spy on other people, or otherwise violate others’ privacy,” Airbnb said. “Our policy prohibits the use of a security camera or any other recording device by a guest to monitor a host or any third party present in the listing without the consent of that person.”
The company says any violations could result in suspension or removal from the Airbnb community.