An Indiana couple had used the services of Airbnb in order to book a place to stay when they traveled to Florida. However, what should have been a restful and relaxing getaway turned into a nightmare when the pair noticed an “odd” black dot on the smoke detector inside the room where they were staying.
Airbnb has exploded in popularity over the last couple of years, as it offers travelers an easy way to book a room and property owners a convenient way to earn some extra money. In case you’re unfamiliar with the way the system works, pre-screened users of Airbnb’s smartphone app can book a room in advance, or at the last minute, almost anywhere in the world.
According to the New York Post, Derek Starnes and his wife were renting a holiday home in Longboat Key, Florida, via Airbnb, when Mr. Starnes spotted an “odd” black dot on the smoke detector directly above the bed in the master bedroom after he had already undressed. Feeling uneasy, he decided to take a closer look.
That’s when Starnes discovered that the “odd” black dot was actually a camera lens. He opened the smoke detector up, only to make another horrifying find: there was recording equipment inside. He went on to find the same thing in a smoke detector in the living room.
The couple, from Indiana, called police and the Airbnb owner Wayne Natt has been charged with video voyerurism.
Police have confiscated his computer equipment and found videos dating as far back as 2008.
Natt apparently told police the cameras were only for his own personal use when he hosted sex parties, and weren’t activated when guests were staying.
But police confirmed they were operated remotely. [Source: Mirror]
“Our question is, if people are aware the cameras are there, why are they hidden in smoke alarms? And his answer was – for a better angle,” said Lieutenant Robert Bourque. “I suspect there are other victims, it’s just a matter of identifying them or not. Who knows what [the camera has] been used for.”
“We are outraged at the reports of what happened; as soon as we were made aware, we permanently banned this individual from our community and fully supported the affected guests,” commented a spokesperson for Airbnb. “Our team has reached out to local law enforcement to aid them with their investigation of this egregious offense and we hope justice is served. We take privacy issues extremely seriously and have a zero-tolerance policy against this behavior.”
While the convenience of Airbnb has contributed to its overwhelming popularity, the increase in users has also led to concerning reports such as this one. There is simply no way the company can weed out all of the opportunists with sinister intentions who use their app, despite their best efforts.
Ultimately, it is up to the user to be responsible for their own safety and privacy. At the end of the day, if you use Airbnb, you will be making yourself vulnerable to complete strangers. There are those without a criminal record simply because they have never been caught, not because they have never committed a crime. This seems to have been the case with Wayne Natt, whose story provides a sobering reminder to travelers that they can never be too cautious when it comes to their safety and privacy.