When Jeffrey Bigham, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University rented an Airbnb for his family over the New Year's holiday, he noticed something odd in the living room: two white objects hiding in plain sight in the rental's rooms.
In a blog post on his website, Bigham says he found the camera in the corner of the living room on the second-day of his stay.
"When my family and I stayed in an AirBnB this past winter break, we discovered this camera and another about a day into our stay," Bigham wrote. "I was shocked and immediately unplugged them."
Bigham says he contacted Airbnb and told them he never consented to being filmed while at the residence and that he was unaware of the cameras when booking the rental property.
"I don’t think we did anything particularly weird in front of that camera, but it’s very likely that my 2-year-old ran in front of this camera naked (the field of view of the camera was close to the exit of the bathroom)," Bigham writes.
"I looked at the home guide again, and it did say that there were cameras “at the entrance,” which these cameras clearly were not. I contacted AirBnB about it, and long story short they said the single photo above was proper disclosure of both cameras."
However, Airbnb said Bigham consented to the cameras, pointing to a photo of the listing where a small white object in the corner of the photo can be seen.
After Airbnb told Bigham's host that they asked about the cameras, Bigham says the host sent someone to snoop on them and left a bad review on their profile.
In a follow-up post published Wednesday, Bigham said Airbnb had "re-re-re-reviewed" his case and agreed that "the cameras were not properly disclosed. Their position seems to be that the customer service representative(s) did not understand my concern, and/or they gave inaccurate information."
In a statement about the incident, Airbnb confirmed they had refunded Bigham's money for his stay.
"Our community’s privacy and safety is our priority, and our original handling of this incident did not meet the high standards we set for ourselves," Airbnb said. "We have apologized to Mr. Bigham and fully refunded him for his stay. We require hosts to clearly disclose any security cameras in writing on their listings and we have strict standards governing surveillance devices in listings."
The host was removed from Airbnb, the company added.