Airbnb is encouraging hosts to purchase discounted surveillance equipment as part of its "party prevention" campaign.
The surveillance equipment is designed to alert hosts when parties in their homes get out of hand. The monitors contain sensors that measure decibel levels and can be attached to ceilings or walls and connected to the host's smartphone. When sustained noise levels exceed the permitted volume, the owner is alerted and can contact the guest directly.
Airbnb is offering discounts of up to 50% on three surveillance models as part of its "party prevention" campaign. One monitor can also detect changes in temperature, motion, humidity and can be used as an alarm when the property is unoccupied. "We want to help you protect your space, maintain the privacy of your guests, and preserve your relationship with neighbours. This means helping you detect issues in real time," the company says on its website.
While Airbnb claims that the campaign is aimed at monitoring bad behaviour and preventing the trashing of homes, there are concerns that the monitors are an invasion of privacy. In an interview with The Times, a spokesperson for the security company CyberCare UK, described the monitors as "creepy", adding "people expect privacy in houses and hotels; you wouldn’t expect to be monitored."
The promotion follows a policy change in December, which saw Airbnb update its terms to ban guests from hosting “open-invite” parties or events in accommodation, unless authorised by hosts. In Canada, guests under-25 have been banned from renting out entire properties following a shooting in Toronto at an Airbnb house party.
Earlier this year, an Airbnb host in Kensington, London claimed her £2.5m ($3.23m) flat was trashed by "drug-taking ravers" after she rented it out for a "baby shower". In Chelsea, a property developer alleged that guests caused £445,000 ($575,000) damage to his home. He claims he rented it out to a family of four, but now believes that 500 people used it. And last year, a home listed on Airbnb in Australia reported more than AUS$30,000 ($19,844) worth of damage after a house party escalated out of control.
Airbnb says the devices do not record sound, only noise levels. A spokesperson for the company said the monitors must be disclosed in a property listing so that guests are aware before they book.