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Why Airbnb Is Banning Renters From Having Cameras Inside Their Listings

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Airbnb hosts may have good reasons to want to install security cameras inside properties they rent out—they’ve been used to catch theft, or vandalism, or even just non-compliance with rental rules. But concerns about privacy violations have pushed the property rental company Airbnb to ban all indoor security cameras in all of its listings worldwide.

“Our goal was to create new, clear rules that provide our community with greater clarity about what to expect on Airbnb,” Juniper Downs, Airbnb’s head of community policy and partnerships, said in a blog post by the San Francisco-based company announcing the new measure on Monday. “These changes were made in consultation with our guests, Hosts and privacy experts, and we’ll continue to seek feedback to help ensure our policies work for our global community.”

Changes to their policy, according to Airbnb, which previously allowed indoor cameras in common areas such as living rooms so long as they were disclosed, will take effect on April 30. The update “simplifies” Airbnb’s approach and makes clear that security cameras “regardless of their location, purpose or prior disclosure” are prohibited inside rented out properties. “As the majority of listings on Airbnb do not report having a security camera, this update is expected to impact a smaller subset of listings on the platform.”

Read More: We Asked An Etiquette Expert About Home Security Cameras

Airbnb has been dogged by controversies in which renters have found seemingly hidden cameras in their lodgings—including in areas with a reasonable expectation of privacy like bathrooms. In an essay titled “Airbnb Has a Hidden-Camera Problem,” former technology staff writer for the Atlantic Sidney Fussell reported in 2019 that in some cases, distressed guests had to resort to social media for Airbnb to settle their complaints. The problem has become so common that sites including the Washington Post and Fast Company have published guides on how to find hidden cameras in your Airbnb, and NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” aired a skit last week parodying Airbnb with references to cameras in the toilet and the bedroom.

Last August, a couple filed a $75,000 lawsuit against a Maryland host for allegedly placing hidden cameras recording their intimate moments in the bedroom of a Silver Spring property they rented out. One member of the couple, who installs smoke detectors professionally, discovered the cameras after spotting two smoke detectors in the bedroom.

And in September 2023, Indonesian police intervened after a newlywed Chinese couple took to Xiaohongshu—China’s equivalent of Instagram—to share that they found a small camera hidden in a wall power socket in an Airbnb room in Kota Kinabalu. The couple said they searched the room after a previous hotel they booked under the platform also had cameras.

Airbnb also apologized to a New Zealand family in 2019 after the renters found a hidden camera live-streaming their stay in Cork, Ireland.

In 2015, a German woman sued Airbnb and an Irvine couple after she said she hadn’t been informed of a camera in the living room of the southern California rental she had stayed in, where she walked around naked. The suit reached a settlement in 2017.

Airbnb did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.

In its announcement about indoor cameras, the company clarified that “devices like doorbell cameras and noise decibel monitors continue to be permitted on Airbnb and can be an effective, privacy-protective way for Hosts to monitor security for their home and get ahead of issues like unauthorized parties.” However, outdoor cameras are prohibited from monitoring indoor spaces and spaces like enclosed outdoor showers or saunas, Airbnb added.

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