Airbnb Guest Says She Found Receipt for Surveillance Gear Worth Thousands in Viral Video

A woman took to social media after finding alarming evidence of surveillance technology in her Airbnb: a receipt for over $1,000 worth of spy equipment. The video, found here, has gone viral in the two days since it was posted, accumulating over 540,000 views and 28,000 likes at the time of writing.

On their website, Airbnb makes its stance on the surveillance of guests by hosts very clear: "We require hosts to disclose all security cameras and other recording devices in their listings, and we prohibit any security cameras and other recording devices that are in or that observe the interior of certain private spaces [such as bedrooms and bathrooms], regardless of whether they've been disclosed."

Surveillance Camera
A TikToker recently discovered a receipt for surveillance equipment at an Airbnb she was staying at. A home surveillance camera in San Ramon, California, 2018. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

That clause, however, has not deterred all Airbnb hosts from the ethically murky practice of monitoring their guests, either by using vague language to "disclose" devices in arguably non-private spaces, not disclosing the cameras' specific locations, or disregarding the rule altogether.

TikToker @coolstrawberryy_, who appears to go by the name "Arlen," posted the clip with the onscreen caption: "a receipt we found at our airbnb."

The receipt—which appears to be a packing slip—comes into view. Dated March 8, 2021, the order included the following items: a "pocket keychain audio recorder," a "USB flash drive audio recorder," an "iPhone case hidden camera," a "power bank hidden camera," and a "16 hour voice activated recorder pen."

The total cost of the order came to $1,038.06 including tax and shipping.

"I immediately started to cry and I felt like throwing up," explained Arlen to Newsweek. She added, "It was just a sick feeling in my stomach. If it was just a day or two it would've been different but I was living there for a month meaning they couldn't have missed anything."

Arlen posted another clip the following day, providing additional context for her situation. She explained that she recently moved to Texas with her sister and boyfriend, and they've been staying in Airbnbs until they are able to get a house of their own.

This particular Airbnb, she said, had its issues. When they arrived, they noticed that it wasn't the same home as what was advertised in the listing's pictures—and soon after, they discovered roaches in the kitchen. Because the building was a "fourplex," the host moved the guests to another unit.

The majority of their stay passed without incident—that is, until their final day in the residence, when Arlen's boyfriend noticed the receipt while cleaning under the bed. She added in the video that the address featured on the packing slip matches a residence "two streets down" from the Airbnb. Arlen explained that she believes someone had been moving the equipment into the Airbnb unit and accidentally dropped the packing slip in the process.

In a second follow-up video, Arlen noted that they didn't find any cameras in the home—but that because it was their check-out day, they didn't have much time to look. She contacted Airbnb following the incident and said she has been in touch with the company's safety team.

"They have informed us they're doing an investigation on the property," explained Arlen to Newsweek, noting that all of their host's properties have been removed from the platform. However, several days after the incident, Airbnb has provided no clear answers—according to Arlen, they said the case appears to still be under investigation.

The story appeared to resonate with viewers, and many expressed their fears of surveillance in these types of situations.

"Stay in hotels, seriously," wrote one viewer. Several others, meanwhile, wrote that they don't stay in Airbnbs "for this reason."

Not everyone, however, was convinced that the receipt indicated potential spying. Commented one viewer: "Now did they just buy the items and actually use them to watch you, or are you just assuming all this off of a paper you found."

Newsweek reached out to Airbnb for comment.

Updated 10/25/2021, 5:28 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with comments from TikTok user @coolstrawberryy_.