Airbnb's New Surveillance Policy
Two of the most famous novels of all time are Brave New World and 1984 by Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, respectively.
Both of these novels said that there would come a time in the future when society would be under constant surveillance.
Well, it looks like we’re in the world(s) they were talking about in these books.
In this article, we’ll walk you through Airbnb’s new surveillance guidelines that they’ve implemented in this “brave new world” and how it affects Airbnb hosts and guests alike.
The Truth About Surveillance
If you walk into any store, what do you see? Clothes, groceries, home goods? Maybe.
What about cameras, cameras, and more cameras? Definitely.
No matter where you are, at any time of day, you are being watched. But what about in the privacy of your own (or others’) homes?
Nope, with a world full of devices it’s hard to imagine that you’re being watched 24/7 by a camera, but the same effect is true for the devices you can find in your home or hand. It’s not only cameras that are doing the “watching”. All sorts of smart devices are constantly on 24/7 that indirectly capture human feedback.
What are some of these devices?
Smart speakers like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, your smartphone, your laptop, even your home entertainment system!
The 21st century home is a home of interconnectivity and constant surveillance.
How do these devices monitor your home?
For the sake of this article, we’re going to split surveillance into three categories: active, passive, and targeted.
Active surveillance is minute by minute monitoring of a property or area. The intention is reactivity to alerting actions. An example of this is a home security camera system with a live feed.
Passive surveillance is an activity that is gathered for use at a later time. An example of this is your “history” tab in your browser.
Targeted surveillance is a combination of active and passive surveillance in a specific concentrated area. If a store has a series of thefts from a specific area, they’ll monitor that area on a consistent basis in an attempt to catch the people or persons who steal that merchandise.
Which devices do what type of surveillance?
Things such as the Ring doorbell are a type of active surveillance. They offer a live camera feed to the homeowner’s smartphone.
Devices like your Internet history are a type of passive surveillance. No one is actively monitoring it, but the data’s there if someone wants to see your digital footprints.
You know those creepy banner ads that somehow know you were interested in this specific product? That’s a type of targeted surveillance.
Some of the common devices as mentioned earlier are that of home entertainment systems. Amazon Alexa and Google Home are gaining high profile prominence, so they’re likely to be a staple in homes of the future.
Amazon Alexa and Google Home pick up phrases and conversations from the room they’re in.
The technocentric blog the Internet of Things had this to say about the Amazon Alexa technology:
"The multiple installed microphones are always able to listen to its surroundings and, because of the secure encryption, we cannot tell what data is transmitted to Amazon. So, in the end, everybody has to decide on its own if trendy techniques and gimmicks are worth the risk of losing a part of your personal privacy."
Recently, Amazon Alexa has been catching heat in the media because a handful of users have reported that their devices have been laughing - completely unprovoked!! Amazon is aware of the issue and is working to fix it, but how or why the device is creating a mind of its’ own is the truly scary part!
What does this mean for hosts and their guests?
Airbnb’s rules about electronic surveillance devices are as follows:
If you’re a host, you are required to indicate the device’s presence in the “House Rules” section of your listing regardless of whether it is turned on or off.
If you’re a host, you are prohibited to use a surveillance device to monitor a third party without their consent.
As a guest, you have a right to not stay in an Airbnb that has a surveillance device, even if it is turned off. Many people regard their privacy highly and feel uncomfortable in homes that have these devices. This allows you to filter accomodations ahead of time.
So, what’s our advice to hosts? Limit the number of surveillance devices in or around your property. Indoors we recommend staying away from cameras and only using noise monitoring technology inside. This allows the homeowner to have peace of mind while allowing guests to have complete privacy. Outside of the home, security systems such as Ring doorbell can be beneficial for two purposes: you’re protecting your guests from potential threats while protecting your property.
What about NoiseAware?
Based on the noise classification we established earlier, what type of device do you think NoiseAware falls under?
We’ll give you some time to figure it out…
NoiseAware is actually all three types of surveillance! But here’s the cool thing:
Our device doesn’t have a video stream nor is it capable of tracking any conversations.
Airbnb’s new rules don’t require you to disclose the presence of devices like Google Home or Amazon Alexa, despite them being much more intrusive than a device like NoiseAware.
NoiseAware IS a surveillance device but unlike other smart home devices, we are unable to hear or record any conversations and no video recordings ever take place.
This means that getting NoiseAware is actually an investment in keeping your home or apartment safe and party-free while providing your guests with the utmost privacy.
Check out our best practices where you can find information on how to create copy for house rules and putting NoiseAware in your rental agreement.
The Final Word on Surveillance
The technologies we mentioned earlier have helped to make our world better and have offered incredible entertainment. But they do come at a price, which is your overall privacy.
If you’re someone who doesn’t mind have an extra dimension of data collected about you, then by all means - go for buying these products. However, if you are someone who likes to keep a tight lid on their privacy and even runs their home as an Airbnb business - you may want to reconsider whether your fancy gadgets are helping you achieve those goals.
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