What the Tech? Protecting privacy from hidden cameras in vacation rentals
If you're hitting the road for Spring Break or a summer vacation, you might be staying at a house or condo you rent on Airbnb or another website or company. New technology in the form of smart home cameras might be putting your privacy at risk.
Anyone can buy a small WiFi camera for as little as $20. A quick look at Amazon shows hidden cameras inside smartphone charging hubs, smoke detectors, coffee makers and some are so small enough you can put them anywhere. The cameras live stream what they see back to someone's smartphone or computer. Millions of people have smart home devices installed including cameras. How they use them is strictly up to them.
Airbnb stipulates that owners and renters disclose the use of such cameras but there's no way to enforce it ahead of time.
Here's what you can do to protect your privacy:
- Turn off the lights and walk through the rooms with a flashlight or your phone. A camera lens is going to give off a reflection.
- Check the outlets. The less expensive cameras require electricity. Follow the cord to see which device it powers.
- Check houseplants and baskets.
- Look for red lights in bookshelves or in the kitchen.
- Start your investigation in the bathrooms and bedrooms.
There are apps that claim to identify cameras by detecting any infrared signal. I've had mixed results when checking them but Hidden Camera Detector seemed to work the best.
But if you're really concerned, unplug your WiFi. Cameras that stream video need a WiFi connection.