Airbnb’s New Security Camera Ban Is a Big Deal

Airbnb’s New Security Camera Ban Is a Big Deal

Airbnb continues its redemption tour with the announcement that it is banning all indoor security cameras in Airbnb properties starting April 30, 2024. As an extra kick, the news offered more detailed guidance on outdoor cameras, as well.

Today’s policy change was a simple, literal ban on cameras in any space defined as indoor—full stop. Outside, cameras “are not allowed in certain outdoor areas where there’s a greater expectation of privacy, like an enclosed outdoor shower or sauna.” I suspect the fuzziness of definitions here will continue to be an issue, since most guests, such as myself, have an expectation of privacy anytime and anywhere I’ve paid for the privilege, including backyards and patios. Video doorbells and noise monitors appear to still have the green light.

While Airbnb revenue continues to soar (a 16% rise from 2022 to 2023 continued a long trend), it has taken a beating in the last year or two from users who are fed up with exorbitant fees, long to-do lists on checkout, overpromised interiors, security issues, and terrible hosts. To gain back some positive PR, last year Airbnb introduced more transparent pricing and is having some success in eliminating cleaning fees. The news today on security cameras aligns with previous efforts to directly address guest concerns. While each of these policy changes moves the needle a little, it’ll take a few quarters before it is known if these moves help Airbnb’s image overall or affect revenue.

For some time, Airbnb has been lax about allowing cameras outdoors wherever hosts wanted to plant them, and indoors, so long as they remained in common areas. Hosts were required to disclose the cameras’ existence and locations, but with little enforcement from Airbnb, review sites flooded with reports of undisclosed cameras. For the host, these measures, which can also include smart home noise monitors like Minut and Nest, can help ensure that guests are respecting the property and neighbors by not stealing or engaging in parties or other disturbing behavior. For guests, it’s an invasion of privacy. This doesn’t even take into account the privacy issues of these smart cameras being hacked and then seen by people other than the host, an issue that does appear to happen over and over.

While Airbnb claims only a portion of hosts utilize indoor cameras, I suspect this is merely the number of reported cameras; actual usage may be much higher. Today’s policy clarity, if heeded, will create a more guest-friendly environment—but only if enforced. Airbnb stated, “Reported violations of this policy brought to our attention will be investigated, and action we take can include listing or account removal.”

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