A 61-year-old landlord was arrested in Stuart, Florida, in 2022 on charges of spying on a tenant with a hidden camera after a 12-year-old girl discovered ae tiny device when she was trying to plug in her computer in her bedroom.
The camera was hardwired into the electrical outlet, according to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office. Such devices are becoming more common, said Martin County Sheriff Chief Deputy John Budensiek.
The girl downloaded the camera-scanning app Hidden Camera Finder, which alerted her that there were unknown cameras inside her house, CBS affiliate WPEC reported.
The camera violated the child’s privacy in her own home where she should be safe, Budensiek said. “But in this particular case, he’s clearly a pervert. He put this in the bathroom, facing the shower.”
“This is why I don’t use Airbnb’s” tweeted Nikki Tha God with a clip from a TikTok video showing an angry renter describing how his landlord had hidden 12 cameras in a rental Detroit home, violating the privacy of the renter’s wife and children.
Talk show host Kim Komando said it happened to her.
“Prepared to be shocked,” the weekend radio host said in a July 2022 USAToday column. “You check into a vacation rental, get settled in and spot surveillance cameras. Even when the cameras are technically allowed, it’s very alarming. Cameras can hide in vents, lamps, power outlets and even unassuming objects like humidifiers and TV remote controls. You must see these cameras to believe they exist.”
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Depending on the rental service, it’s legal to install cameras, Komando added. “Years ago, surveillance cameras were expensive and bulky. These days, they’re affordable and easy to install and hide.”
Airbnb’s policy on recording guests is clear: hosts can have cameras on their property but not in bathrooms or rooms where guests sleep, and only if guests have a chance to consent before they book a listing.
Hidden cameras in rental properties aren’t just an annoyance. It’s an invasion of privacy. Here are some ways to find out of there are cameras in your rented property.
Read the fine print
Komando said she had about a dozen cameras inside an Airbnb she rented a few years ago. The owner disclosed the cameras in tiny print at the bottom of the listing. “Now I read rental listings very carefully and ask these questions before I book,” she said.
Exactly how many cameras are there and where are they?
Are the cameras recording?
What happens to those recordings after my stay?
Know your state’s laws
Laws vary from state to state. The Federal Video Voyeurism Act says you can’t “capture an image of a private area of an individual without their consent, and knowingly does so under circumstances in which the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy.” It’s important to note that “private area” refers to nudity or lesser states of dress, Komando reported.
Know how to spot surveillance cameras
Smaller cameras can be hidden behind furniture, vents and decorations. Look for the lens reflection.
Turn off the lights and scan the room slowly looking for bright reflections using a flashlight or laser pointer. Do this from multiple spots so you don’t miss a camera pointed only at certain places, Komando said. Inspect vents and holes or gaps in walls and ceilings.
Consider getting an RF detector. This gadget isn’t great for wired or record-only cameras but can pick up wireless cameras you might not see.
Connect to the rental’s wireless network using a free program like Wireless Network Watcher which shows what gadgets are connected.
“I do this in every rental I stay in, just to double-check what’s connected to the network,” Komando said. “Be aware that the owner might have put the cameras on a second network, or they could be wired or record-only types, so this is not a fail-safe option.”
If you find an undisclosed indoor camera
“Call the police,” Komando said. “Tell them you have direct evidence that your landlord is spying on you inside your rental home without your knowledge or permission. Use this exact phrase.”