A family staying in an Airbnb in Ireland discovered they were being livestreamed by a hidden camera.
The Barkers found the camera concealed in the living room after father of five Andrew tried to connect his phone to the Wifi and saw a device labelled “IP camera”.
“He scanned that device’s ports and found the live video feed,” his wife Nealie told Stuff. “We were all watching ourselves on his mobile phone.”
The camera was in the lounge, positioned so it had a view of the dining and kitchen area as well.
“We have encountered lots of weird and wonderful things and like to think we take most things in our stride,” added Nealie. “However, this was shocking.”
The Barkers had checked in with their children on 3 March, having paid in full for three nights’ accommodation.
“It was late at night, but we decided fairly quickly we didn’t feel comfortable about staying at the house,” said Nealie.
They immediately left and checked into a nearby hotel.
When the Barkers subsequently asked the Airbnb host about the camera, he refused to answer their questions at first and denied the device’s existence.
However, when Andrew said they could see themselves on the camera, the host “became flustered and hung up”.
He rang back later and said that he had only installed the camera to “protect his asset”.
Nealie said Airbnb’s response was initially “hopeless”: it took weeks to hear back about the outcome of the investigation.
An Airbnb spokesperson said: “We have permanently removed this bad actor from our platform.
“Our original handling of this incident did not meet the high standards we set for ourselves, and we have apologised to the family and fully refunded their stay. There have been over half a billion guest arrivals in Airbnb listings to date and negative incidents are incredibly rare.”
Airbnb has strict policies governing the use of cameras in listings – they are never allowed in bathrooms or bedrooms or to be hidden – and has a zero tolerance stance when it comes to violations.
There have been several high profile cases of holidaymakers finding hidden cameras in Airbnb properties in recent years.
Dougie Hamilton was on holiday with his girlfriend in Toronto, Canada, in 2018 when he found one hidden in a digital clock.
The Scottish holidaymaker told the Daily Record: “We were only in the place for 20 minutes when I noticed the clock. There was just something in my head that made me feel a bit uneasy.
“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. The hidden camera was facing into the living area and open-plan bedroom, so it could see everything. We didn’t know if the owner had been watching. It just felt really creepy and we didn’t want to stay.”
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