Your worst Airbnb nightmare just came true in Irvine, California. The company is being sued by a German couple who reportedly found a hidden camera during their stay in the property two years ago. Now, after much consternation and debate about what to do in response to the disturbing experience, Yvonne Schumacher is filing a lawsuit against both Airbnb and the owners of the residence, Fariah Hassim and Jamil Jiva.
Airbnb, which has staked its company reputation on community, openness, and trust, has stated that it has a “zero-tolerance policy” for hidden cameras, and requires that hosts completely disclose the presence of any such devices and attain their guests’ consent. But that isn’t enough for Schumacher, who has now leveled two charges of negligence against Airbnb, as well as wiretapping, privacy intrusion, and infliction of emotional distress against Hassim and Jiva.
Asserting that “her privacy [was] violated on a daily basis,” Schumacher’s complaint notes that she and her partner, Kevin Stockton, spoke of “highly personal matters,” and also … well, did what any couple would do while on vacation in another country — only unbeknownst to them, it was all caught on camera.
“Notably, while staying as a guest in the property, at night Mrs. Schumacher would sleep without any clothing, believing that with the front door closed and the window blinds drawn throughout the property, she was protected and free from prying eyes,” the lawsuit states. “This natural presumption proved to be incorrect.”
More alarming still, the complaint alleges that after Schumacher and Stockton discovered the camera hidden between two candles on the third day of their stay, they realized that “the camera was actually moving, demonstrating that it was being remotely controlled by the camera’s operator.”
“Mrs. Schumacher is deeply humiliated and angry about the fact that the camera was and/or could have been used to spy upon her while she was completely undressed and walking around within the property,” the complaint reads. “Moreover, she has been and continues to be concerned that images of her exist in electronic form and could make their way onto the Internet or some other medium.”
This case is one that is sure to continue developing, but for the time being, Airbnb has promised to “defend it vigorously.” A spokesperson noted, “Airbnb takes privacy issues extremely seriously. All hosts must certify that they comply with all applicable laws in their locations and are of course expected to respect the privacy of their guests.”