How To Check for Cameras in an Airbnb
It's rare, but still worth taking precautions. A security expert explains how to find hidden cameras in an Airbnb.
Are you worried about being recorded while you stay at an Airbnb? You’re not alone. After all, you’re trusting your security to people you’ve never met.
Airbnb’s policy does not allow cameras in any private space, and all cameras must be disclosed to guests. Horror stories happen, though. Media reports of guests finding cameras above the bed or in the bathroom certainly give any traveler pause.
Luckily, these incidents are rare, according to Airbnb spokesperson Ruthie Wabula. “With over one billion check-ins on Airbnb to date, safety-related reports are incredibly rare — less than 0.1% of reservations result in a safety report by hosts or guests,” she says.
Still, Bill Herzog, president of LionHeart Security Services in Tempe, Arizona, says you should always check for hidden cameras. “No matter how many good reviews they have,” he says, “it is in your best interest and safety to check for these devices to protect yourself and your family.”
Herzog takes us through the steps:
Scan the Room
Cameras can be hidden anywhere, Herzog says. That includes two-way mirrors, smoke detectors, lamps, picture frames, USB drives, air vents, alarm clocks and shower heads.
Look around the Airbnb to get a sense of where you should focus your attention. Does anything look out of place, or oddly pointed toward a bed or shower? Take mental notes, then start your search.
Turn Off the Lights
Start by checking for night-vision cameras. “Almost all hidden cameras have red or green LED lights to create just enough light for the camera to capture the images,” Herzog says. “Turning off the lights will help you spot these small LED lights.
“The IR (infrared) spectrum is invisible to the human eye, but most modern phones can detect this light. Use the front-facing camera and hold it to any devices that look out of place, or areas that are common for hidden cameras, to detect any IR lights.”
Herzog says IR lights often blink, so hold the camera to the device for a few seconds to make sure there’s no light emitting from the device.
Check the Mirrors
Make sure mirrors are actually hanging on the wall and not built into it like a window, Herzog says. A mirror that’s not separate from the wall behind it likely indicates it’s two-way.
“You can also knock on the mirror to check,” Herzog says. “Two-way mirrors make a hollower sound than a regular mirror.”
Shine a Light
According to Marcus Hutchins, a British ex-hacker and cybersecurity expert who released this popular TikTok on the subject of Airbnb and hotel cameras, a simple flashlight can detect cameras if you know how to look. Camera lenses give off a blue reflection when light hits them, so fire up your smartphone flashlight and shine it at any device you suspect might be a camera.
Use an App
“There are also many applications you can download to use when detecting hidden cameras,” Herzog says.
Check the App Store or Google Play for highly-rated apps that detect hidden cameras. These apps may use scanners to look for Wi-Fi networks, or use the camera or light on your smartphone as an alternative to the manual process above. You may need to pay a subscription fee.
What If You Find a Camera?
Herzog says to take these steps if you find a hidden camera:
- Document every area where you suspect a hidden camera.
- Take pictures and video of the devices.
- Contact the owner of the property, as well as Airbnb, immediately.
- Contact the local police.
Airbnb spokesperson Wabula says: “Our policies strictly prohibit hidden cameras, and we take forceful action in the exceptionally rare circumstance such an issue is reported, including assisting law enforcement to help them hold criminals accountable.”
Airbnb launched a law enforcement portal in 2019 to streamline reporting and information-tracking requests related to guest security. The company also has a 24-hour safety line for guests and hosts.