Airbnb bans security cameras inside rental homes 

Kampala has the highest market score in Uganda, with a 34 percent occupancy rate - a decrease from the 41 percent recorded in March last year. Photo / File 

What you need to know:

  • The ban seeks to protect visitors’ privacy, which has previously been breached, according to consultations with guests, hosts, and privacy experts

The online marketplace for short-term rentals, Airbnb, has banned the use of security cameras inside rental homes starting April 30. 

The move seeks to protect visitors’ privacy, which Airbnb, said in a statement yesterday has been breached as evidenced by consultations with guests, hosts, and privacy experts. 

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

Airbnb currently permits use of security cameras in areas such as living rooms and hallways, but the location of such equipment must be revealed on the property’s listing prior to booking. 

The equipment must also be easily visible, and must not be fitted in bathrooms or sleeping areas.

However, regardless of their location, intended use, or prior disclosure, the use of outdoor cameras pointing inside properties is now strictly prohibited by the company’s new policy. 

“Alongside a ban on indoor cameras, the revised policy will also see more comprehensive rules on the use of outdoor security cameras and other devices, including noise decibel monitors,” Ms Downs said .

The new rules, however, will still allow the use of doorbell cameras and noise monitors in common areas, prior to their disclosure on the property’s listing page.

Before guests book, Airbnb said, hosts must notify them of the existence and general location of any outdoor cameras, but the “cameras will be prohibited from monitoring indoor spaces of a listing and are not allowed in certain outdoor areas where there is a greater expectation of privacy such as an enclosed outdoor shower or sauna. 

“Hosts are also required to disclose the presence of noise decibel monitors, which assess decibel level only and do not record or transmit sounds or conversations and are only allowed in common spaces of listings,” Ms Downs said, noting that the aim is to strike a compromise between protecting guests’ privacy and requiring hosts to keep an eye on their property’s security while aware of potential threats such as unauthorised parties.

The upgrade, Airbnb said, is expected to impact a small subset listings because majority of Airbnb listings do not report having security cameras. 

Beginning April 30, the online short-term rental firm said, it will start looking into any policy infractions brought to its notice and that removal of accounts or listings may result from the investigation.

Short-term lodging options such as Airbnbs have revolutionised both travelers’ lifestyle and the hospitality industry, evidenced by growing demand from tourists and business travelers for unique and customised experiences that are not available in hotel rooms.

Airbnbs, particularly, have garnered preference due to their flexible cancellation policy and the company has witnessed a frenzy of uptake among Ugandans due to convenient and lucrative rates.

Airbnbs in Kampala 

According to data from vacation rental research firm AirDNA, Kampala has the highest market score in Uganda, with a 34 percent occupancy rate - a decrease from the 41 percent recorded in March last year.                                      

There are more than 60 listings in Kampala, most of which are favoured by multiple amenities such as air conditioning, cable television, kitchens, parking, washers, and wireless internet.

AirDNA data shows that hosts earn at least Shs22.4m a year, which is 44 percent more than they earned in the previous year, with daily rates standing at an average of Shs181,300 per night, which is a 2 percent increase over the previous year.