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Airbnb hosts in Alberta resort town support ban on indoor security cameras

“I felt like I've never heard that rule, and it made me uncomfortable thinking I would go into an Airbnb being filmed. I would never put a camera in my Airbnb.”
Airbnb is banning surveillance cameras inside all its rental properties. | Airbnb

Airbnb is banning the use of indoor security cameras in listings globally, a move that hosts in Jasper are backing. 

Many Jasper homeowners who operated short-term rentals within secondary suites do so through the online rental platform, but the ban is not expected to affect any local hosts as having indoor cameras is not common practice for them. 

“I am confident that Jasper hosts would agree that it is a violation of guests' privacy to have a security camera inside an accommodation, even if only in a common area, as has been permitted by Airbnb up until now,” said Karen Phillips, a long-time private home accommodation host, in an email. 

Airbnb had historically allowed the use of indoor cameras in common areas of listings, such as hallways and living rooms, but they had to be disclosed on the listing page before booking, clearly visible and not located in spaces like sleeping areas and bathrooms. 

The company says the ban was expected to impact a smaller subset of listings on the platform as most listings do not report having a security camera. 

“Our goal was to create new, clear rules that provide our community with greater clarity about what to expect on Airbnb,” said Juniper Downs, Airbnb’s head of community policy and partnerships, in a statement. 

“These changes were made in consultation with our guests, Hosts and privacy experts, and we’ll continue to seek feedback to help ensure our policies work for our global community.” 

Phillips, who is also treasurer for the Jasper Home Accommodation Association (JHAA), explained that while Airbnbs are often thought of as entire unoccupied homes with no host in residence, that is not the case in Jasper.

“While many JHAA members advertise their accommodations on the Airbnb platform, Jasper PHAs (private home accommodation, as short-term rentals are called here) are only permitted within a home-owner's house, with the host living on site and present while the accommodation is rented to visitors,” she said. 

“An onsite host deters the types of parties and events that might prompt an owner to install cameras in indoor spaces.” 

Philips added that many jurisdictions are now regulating short-term rentals, often with similar rules that Jasper has had since the 1980s, including licensing and a requirement that the accommodation be within the host’s primary residence. 

Notably, British Columbia has new rules for short-term rentals coming into effect on May 1. 

Katherine Savage, who operates the Caribou Knoll in Jasper and lists her property on Airbnb, said she welcomed the ban on indoor cameras and that it was strange for a host to have any to begin with. 

“I felt like I've never heard that rule, and it made me uncomfortable thinking I would go into an Airbnb being filmed. I would never put a camera in my Airbnb.” 

She agreed that indoor cameras were also unnecessary since Jasper hosts had to live on site and could hear, for example, if there was a party going on downstairs. 

“I don’t know if that’s a Jasper thing [to have indoor cameras]. I think it's a non-Jasper thing because I spoke to a bunch of people after, and they're like, ‘I have no idea.’” 

Airbnb will continue to allow devices such as doorbell cameras and noise decibel monitors, but hosts will be required to disclose the presence and general location of any outdoor cameras before guests book. 

Outdoor cameras will be prohibited from monitoring indoor spaces and certain outdoor areas where there’s a greater expectation of privacy, such as an enclosed outdoor shower or sauna. 

Hosts must also disclose the presence of noise decibel monitors, which assess decibel level only, do not record or transmit sounds or conversations and are only allowed in common spaces. 

The ban is set to take effect on April 30. 

Airbnb says reported violations will be investigated and may result in listing or account removal. 

Peter Shokeir

About the Author: Peter Shokeir

Peter Shokeir is the publisher and editor of the Jasper Fitzhugh. He has written and edited for numerous publications in Alberta.
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