Airbnb renters find hidden camera in vacation condo
Imagine settling into a vacation at an Airbnb rental with your partner — only to learn that your host is secretly watching or even recording you. ICK. And also, probably call the cops?
That scenario is exactly what happened to an Indiana couple renting a condo through Airbnb in Longboat Key, Florida. Derek Starnes and his wife discovered two hidden cameras hidden in their rental — one in the bedroom, and one in the living room.
Starnes told local ABC station WFTS that he noticed a small black hole in the master bedroom’s smoke detector. He took the device down and realized that the hole was actually a camera lens pointing right at the bed, and feeding video onto an SD card hidden inside. Starnes immediately called the police after discovering the camera.
“My wife and I are distressed by this situation,” Starnes said. “I hope more victims will come forward.”
Lt. Bob Bourque told ABC that police seized “computer storage data devices, hard drives, computers, laptops SD cards anything that would store data.” Law enforcement is concerned about whether others have been filmed without their knowledge, including both local associates of the owner or other Airbnb renters.
The condo’s owner, Wayne Natt, has been an Airbnb host for two years, and has more than 40 renter reviews. He has since been arrested and charged with video voyeurism.
The suspect maintained that everyone recorded in his home was filmed consensually. When pressed for why Natt would conceal the camera in a smoke alarm if the filming was consensual, Bourque reported that Natt responded that hiding it in the ceiling “gave him a better angle.”
However, Lt. Bourque confirmed that the very first video he watched was of Mr. Starnes and his wife caught on camera – a video taken without their knowledge or consent.
In a statement to ABC, Airbnb said that they were “outraged” by the reports of a hidden camera.
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. 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.
In its FAQ section, Airbnb states that they perform background checks for criminal records and sex offender listings. However, “background checks don’t always identify a person’s past crimes or other red flags,” expands the FAQ section. And Airbnb writes that its screening is “never a guarantee that a person won’t break the law in the future.”
In this case, that disclaimer sounds like more than a bit of an understatement.