There have been some creepy stories about Airbnb rentals packed with a little more spy-tech than customers would like. In its list of rules for hosts, the service clearly states: "Intentionally concealed recording devices (such as hidden security cameras) are never permitted. Airbnb prohibits security cameras or recording devices that are in or that observe private spaces like bedrooms, bathrooms, or sleeping areas."
It should be noted that the "private" spaces are considered sacred by Airbnb's rules, and the service goes on to say that if there are any cameras on the property, then the host must either include that information in the listing or let guests know that personally.
However, some users on the platform have noticed that not everyone abides by these rules and only realize that they're possibly being recorded by a concealed camera after they've gotten into their rental.
This is what Twitter user @foxytaughtyou believed happened to her after she booked a place through Airbnb for her and her friend to stay in during a visit to Philadelphia.
She posted photos of various sprinklers located in seemingly strange places, until she looked closer and thought there were camera lenses packed in the "holes" of sprinkler housing.
She wrote in the now-viral tweet: "BE CAUTIOUS BOOKING AIR BNBs! My friend & I recently stayed at an Airbnb in Philadelphia with over 10 hidden cameras all over the house. Including the showers and bedrooms. Some were disguised as sprinkler systems but it has a camera lens."
She went on to say in a follow-up tweet with a video of the Airbnb room: "We noticed these “sprinklers” CAMERAS were placed in spots to get a perfect view of people. Luckily it was a girls trip so I wasn’t having intercourse… but I was naked and had to change in this room."
Horrified by the discovery, she attempted to contact the Airbnb's owner, but it wasn't listed under a specific individual, just a business. She added that every time they tried to call the person they wouldn't answer the phone but would only respond via messaging.
The Twitter user went on to express her disdain with Airbnb, stating that the application didn't give her her money back but just booked them at another location in the area. The Twitter user added that she reported the situation to both Airbnb and the police, but that she wasn't updated on the status of her report.
One commenter, in response to her tweet, posted a clip from a TikToker who delineated various different methods of detecting hidden cameras inside of your Airbnb, hotel room, or anywhere really.
The advice is practical and sound: Look at for any out-of-place objects that appear to be directly placed above or near a bed or in areas of the bathroom.
Basically, anywhere a "creeper" would place them, as the TikToker says. Your best friend is discerning whether or not these devices pack cameras? A flashlight. When you shine a light on these devices, you'll be greeted with a blue-ish reflection.
And in case you don't have time to watch the entire TikTok, or would like to have a quick reference sheet, someone made a handy-dandy infographic you can save to your phone...or get tattooed on your forearm. Whatever works for you.
There are several online retailers that sell cameras tucked away in sprinkler housing cases. Amazon even carries the product, like this SPY-MAX branded one that retails for $525. The product's "camera is activated by motion detection" and is said to have "a viewing angle of 80 degrees wide and 70 degrees tall."
Some folks, however, were a bit confused as to whether or not the sprinklers were actually cameras, and they began looking at the sprinklers in their own apartments to see whether or not that was the case.
If you rent an apartment, there's probably a good chance there are sprinklers above you right now you've either forgotten about or never noticed before.
Some even referenced the red, heat sensing fluid in the sprinklers as a means of knowing whether or not it's a camera. However, as you can see in the Spy-MAX Amazon listing above, even fake cameras can sport that aesthetic, and this video below proves it as well.
While there was a debate as to whether or not OP really encountered a bunch of hidden cameras in her Airbnb, there were several individuals who proved that it was definitely possible. The City of Philadelphia has clearly delineated guidelines for sprinkler systems in residential buildings.
The Quick Response Fire Supply blog states: "Essentially, sprinklers only need to cover rooms of a certain size that are considered living areas. Standard sprinklers cover a 12' x 12' area and extended coverage sprinklers cover a 20' x 20' area, and each head must be placed at least 8' apart; thus, many rooms will only need one or two sprinklers heads."
A representative for Airbnb, Aaron Swor, reached out to Distractify via email to clarify that their company worked local with Philly police to look into the case of hidden sprinkler cameras and as it turns out, well, not only were they regular old sprinkler heads but they also fully refunded the woman.
"We thoroughly looked into this allegation as we do for all safety reports. Today, we spoke directly with the lead detective from the Philadelphia Police Department who responded to the complaint and investigated the property."
Aaron continued, "He confirmed that he did not find any hidden or undisclosed cameras and that the fire sprinklers had regular sprinklerheads. The detective also confirmed that they plan to close this case. Regarding our guest, we appreciate how she felt and we will continue to provide her with our full support, including with a refund."