Airbnb illegal audio monitoring?

Airbnb monitoring warning

Me and my partner decided on Airbnb for our trip to Barcelona. We found one  and booked it. Generally the flat was ok,

However there was a warning on the kitchen door, stating they are listening for noise 24 hours a day and will cancel bookings if there is loud noise. Looking around I think the device is this thing…?

Airbnb monitoring warning

It certainly put a terrible taste in our mouth and made us feel uncomfortable. Although we didn’t complain straight away and by the time we thought about it, the internet connection was down and if its really connected and not a poor joke; it was no longer going to work. Didn’t cause the host(s) to come and find out what was wrong, even with us complaining about the lack of internet (I debugged it as much as I could, but ultimately we had European roaming data and wasn’t in the flat that much)

This has to be a breach of privacy and I’ve finally complained to Airbnb. Especially after rethinking and re-reading things like this.

Update – Thursday 13th Sept

Since my tweets/toots and this blog post. I had quite a lot of people and journalists get in touch… But I still have seen nothing from Airbnb or the host. So I decided to take one of the journalists up on their offer in a form of social justice. No idea how what I wrote will come across or be edited but as I was seeking out the legal ramifications of what the host had done, I saw this on the Airbnb help site…

Rules for hosts
If you’re a host and you have any type of surveillance device in or around a listing, even if it’s not turned on or hooked up, we require that you indicate its presence in your House Rules. We also require you to disclose if an active recording is taking place. If a host discloses the device after booking, Airbnb will allow the guest to cancel the reservation and receive a refund. Host cancellation penalties may apply.

With that I rewrote to Airbnb and Airbnbhelp to demand a refund on top of everything else I previously complained about.

Sure to update everyone once I hear something….

Update – Friday 15th Sept

I was contacted by Airbnb by phone, the woman ran through a few questions and we talked about what happened again. She agreed this was clearly a breach of the Airbnb terms and could see the listening device and the warning in a few of the photos (as like me, knew what to look for). She said they would block/ban that listing which they have done. They also issued a refund to me and my partner, which is great news as our un-comfortableness certainly had a slight affect on the holiday in Barcelona.

Personally I’m glad I found the Airbnb term above, as that drove things along much quicker. Previous to that, it seemed not a lot was being done?

In our conversation, it was worth noting an Alexa, Google Home, Baby monitors, etc would count as listening devices which must be declared upfront before the guest books.

From Airbnb…

To summarize, we will follow up and investigate the host’s account following your report of a surveillance device in the listing. We take these reports very seriously, once again, thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. Your participation helps keep Airbnb a safe and trusted community.

Urban legend says facebook is listening

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There so much talk about Facebook and other west coast megacorps (the 5 stacks) listening in on our conversations. To be fair its part of the reason why I don’t like Whatsapp who own and can do what ever they like to the metadata of your conversations. It’s all become a bit of an urban legend, but to be fair the megacorps are doing an incredibly bad job explaining how things are happening (little to no transparency, but to be fair it’s not fitting with their business model).

Even a recent episode of Reply All tackled this field – #109 Is Facebook spying on you.

You can look & listen to the rising concern the public have around their privacy; and the increasing number of stories. I you can’t help but think maybe there is a change coming? Or at least I’d like to think so… but its clear there is a lack of understanding of data by the general public.

For example

“One of the things that Facebook can do is if you like something, it can advertise that thing to your friends. So the brother-in-law obviously signaled to Facebook that he was into white supremacy somehow, and Charles’ friend was liking a lot of the guy’s posts, and they were friends on Facebook, so Facebook was like, “Alright, well, why don’t I advertise this white supremacist stuff to you.”

If you actually read the Facebook EULA, it actually says this but certainly not in such clear human readable words (its been a long while since I skimmed the FB eula, so may have changed – but doubt it). In my own experience, it’s also very hard for people to envision scenarios where the links matter, hence it may not be the actual data but the links between the data which suddenly make people worry and care; the data taken out of context. Most have no idea how many categories of data Facebook alone are sorting us all into.

This is hard to show and demonstrate without going; without going all black mirror or someones eyes glazing over. In my experience when talking about data most people shrug and say things like, “nothing to hide.”

Glass room recipt

During Mozfest this year I got the chance to walk around the Glass Room on Charing Cross Road, with the people at the ingenious bar giving out data detox kits. The kits are interesting because it’s aimed at a mass audience and the advice although simple is generally useful. I also found some of the installations good, especially the one where you are swiping through your facebook timeline (it was twitter for me) and 2 mins later, given a printed receipt of your work. (Funny enough, it felt like a lot longer than 2mins but then again, its not really the thing I do regularlly)

We certainly need more of this!

Hopefully more of these public interjections will start to move the discussion on from urban legends to a proper informed discussion about ethical data use. I believe FB and others are capitalising on the general public ignorance and its got to stop.

Listening to the next net generation

The teen demographic uses the Web constantly and in very sophisticated ways. They don't want to pay for very much, but if you can find something they will pay for (like ring tones), they tend to spend a lot. Safa Rashtchy, managing director of Piper Jaffray, interviewed five seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds about their relationships with technology.

Oh my goodness you have to hear the end of this podcast enclosure, what Teens want – starts at 15:20 mins and lasts about 8mins. Cant wait to hear the whole thing on IT Conversations really soon.

Generally the thoughts is free is good and there's some thoughts about spyware and advertising. Someone did mention paying artist of the music via iTunes but generally there was no thoughts beyond free download. Although you can listen to it and shake your head in shame, I dont. I use to think exactly the same way. Now at least I'm a little more aware of the issues and the cultural shifts. I'm sure the teenagers on stage will alter there views a little over time. But honestly its refreshing to hear the younger generation talk frankly about there habits.

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