Is it illegal to put hidden cameras in an Airbnb rental?

lighthouse airbnb

Earlier this month, we wrote about an incident involving couple who found security cameras hidden inside of an alarm clock in their Airbnb rental in Toronto. “I took the charger out of it and saw there was a lithium battery in the back. At this point, I slid the front facing off the clock and could see there actually was a camera,” Dougie Hamilton told the Daily Record after the incident.

The couple in Toronto isn’t the first to experience this type of thing while staying in an Airbnb either. In 2016, a Washington state resident and her friend claimed to have found a cell phone filming under a sink in a Switzerland Airbnb rental.

Airbnb has strict a policy against putting cameras in a rental without the guest’s knowledge. The policy says you have to tell people in the listing if you have cameras in the dwelling, and you can’t be a creep and put cameras in private places (places where people get undressed like bedrooms or bathrooms).

We want to know exactly where the line is. With so many home security cameras these days, does a homeowner have the right to place cameras in a place they’re renting out to Airbnb guests? Is it illegal for a homeowner to film in an Airbnb rental?

When we go out in the world, we have little right to privacy. We do, however, have the right not to be violated by secret filming in areas where we undress. Although the owners of these Airbnb properties were technically filming in their own homes (which is legal), filming guests without their knowledge while they’re supposed to be in a private area is a bit of a different story. This crosses into video voyeurism territory.

The Federal Video Voyeurism Act of 2004 states that you can’t “capture an image of a private area of an individual without their consent, and knowingly does so under circumstances in which the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy.” A reasonable expectation of privacy, like in a bedroom of a place you are renting, like an Airbnb, perhaps?

About a year ago, a Florida man was arrested and charged with one count video voyeurism after he allegedly hid cameras in smoke detectors in the Airbnb he rented out.

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