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How start-up SpyGuy helps find cameras hidden in Airbnb rentals

Airbnb is hugely popular, but at least one drawback is top of mind for travelers who use the short-term rental marketplace.

A recent survey showed that 58% of people who use Airbnb are worried about hidden cameras being stashed in their lodgings. Reports of unknown recording devices in short-term rentals and hotel/motel rooms have raised privacy concerns, even before Airbnb’s 2008 launch.

With more spying incidents being flagged, one startup company is looking to give travelers peace of mind. Online security store SpyGuy is offering a hidden camera finder dubbed Scout, which launched just this week.

The $100 device uses high-powered LEDs that reflects off camera lenses. Users can look through device’s aperture and see a bright red light if a camera is pinpointed.


“Anybody who's staying in a hotel, an Airbnb, they're concerned about privacy, safety,” SpyGuy Founder, Allen Walton told YFi PM in a recent interview. “They don't want be on the internet in a private moment.”

Scout uses high-powered LEDs that reflect off camera lenses. Just look through Scout's aperture and you'll see a pinpoint of bright red light if it detects a camera.
Scout uses high-powered LEDs that reflect off camera lenses. Look through Scout's aperture and you'll see a pinpoint of bright red light if it detects a camera.

Scout is the first in-house product that SpyGuy has developed. Allen believes it can be beneficial for personal use, as well as business or official use.

“I've also spoken to a lot of law enforcement is interested in this, police departments especially,” Allen stated. “They like when they respond to a call, they like tools like this so that they can see if there's any cameras that might have recorded footage.”

The implications extend far beyond hotel rooms, Allen continued, citing public restrooms in restaurants and stores like Starbucks (SBUX).

‘Trust’ in the face of growing concerns

Scout’s launch came as Airbnb announced they would be introducing new safety measures in the wake of a fatal California shooting at one of its rentals on October 31.

In an e-mail addressed to Airbnb’s global staff, co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky wrote that Airbnb plans to “do everything possible to learn from these incidents when they occur” — and that renters “need to feel like they can trust our community, and that they can trust Airbnb when something does go wrong.”

Chesky outlined new safety protocols the company will take to ensure the safety of hosts and renters. These new measures include the verification of every listing featured on the website, and a new review system that detects and flags high risk and suspicious reservation listings.

“Airbnb is founded on trust,” Chesky continued. “And our vision depends on us continuing to increase this in our community.”

Chelsea Lombardo is a production assistant for Yahoo Finance. You can find more of her work here.

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