It was during a 14-month long journey across Europe that members of this New Zealand family made an astonishing discovery, in their apartment rented via Airbnb in the city of Cork (Ireland). A camera was hidden in a fire alarm device filming their every move and relayed live to the owner of the building.
It was Andrew Barker, the father, who spotted the presence of the device when trying to connect to the Wifi network in the house. An IT consultant, he discovered very quickly the presence of the camera. His wife said in an interview with CNN posted online, more than a month after their shortened stay in the apartment.
It was such a shock! It was just a horrible sensation.
Immediately, the Barkers called Airbnb technical support. But the exchange did not proceed for the best, the mother stated:
The person on the phone only told me that if we cancelled within the 14 days, we could not be reimbursed.
Andrew then called the owner of the house, who first refused to admit to the presence of the camera, before backtracking a few minutes later confiding that the living room camera was the only one in the house.
‘They did not realise the gravity of the situation’
Despite these elements, the management of the dispute by Airbnb seems to leave something to be desired, as explained by the mother:
‘They did not realise the gravity of the situation. They treated the case as simply a cancelled reservation.’
The couple, travelling with their four children and nieces, shared their misadventure on social media. A good idea, since the controversy caused several articles to be published in the New Zealand press, which finally pushed Airbnb to react. In response to the buzz generated by this story, the platform decided to reimburse the Barkers, and the malicious host was banned from the site. Airbnb said in a statement:
‘The security and privacy of our community, online and offline, is our priority, Airbnb's policies strictly prohibit hidden cameras and we take information about violations very seriously. Our initial treatment of this incident did not meet the high standards we have set for ourselves, and we apologised to the family and fully reimbursed their stay.’