It happened to me. Check, vacation and spot surveillance cameras as you vacation. Even though the cameras are technically allowed, this is very worrisome.
Ready to fall down. Cameras can also hide objects such as vents, lights, power outlets and humidifiers and TV remote controls. You must see to believe that there are these cameras. Tap or click for 10 hidden cameras so you never know they are there.
Don’t worry about your trip on social media to keep your house safe while you’re on vacation. I also use the cheap Amazon Echo to alert me of any sounds that might break the glass. Tap or click here to learn how to set it up and use your laptop or desktop to record what it looks like while you’re away.
If you are going on vacation soon, it is essential to know your claims about surveillance cameras in your rental.
It’s easier than ever to keep an eye on
Years ago, surveillance cameras were expensive and bulky. These days, they are affordable and easy to install and hide. Depending on the rental service, owners are in their rights to install the cameras.
The Airbnb home I rented a few years ago had about a dozen cameras. The owner revealed the cameras using a small font at the bottom of the list. Now I read the rental listings very carefully and ask these questions before I book:
• What is the exact number of cameras and where are they?
• Are cameras recording?
• What happens to those recordings after I stay?
Airbnb allows security cameras or audio recorders in “public places” and “public places”. That means there are no bathrooms, bedrooms or other sleeping areas. For example, a camera or other monitoring device is not allowed if the living room has a sofa bed. Even concealed and undisclosed cameras are not allowed.
VRBO only allows cameras and other surveillance equipment outside the property. One exception: Smart devices that cannot be activated remotely. Guests should be informed and given the option to deactivate them.
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But is it legal?
The laws of this sticky subject vary from state to state. “The image of a person’s private area cannot be captured without their consent, and the person cannot deliberately capture it in situations where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy,” the Federal Video Voyeurism Act states. It is important to note that the “private area” refers to the state of nudity or low wear.
Local and state laws generally permit property owners to install cameras in “public places.” This is an important distinction. Private areas such as bedrooms and bathrooms or anyone can reasonably expect privacy to be off limits. In the event that you rent a single room of a house or apartment, it can be deceiving.
There is another warning: it is illegal to record someone for blackmail or other malicious purpose. Audio recording also has more stringent rules than video. In many states, both parties must be aware that recording is taking place.
If you are renting, check the listing carefully for any reference to the cameras. Whether or not you see the disclosure, it is your responsibility to inspect each room upon arrival. I’ll show you how.
Related: You may be breaking the law online and not knowing it
How to spot surveillance cameras
Large cameras are easy to spot, but anyone can easily hide small cameras behind furniture, vents or decorations. The simplest way to identify most types of cameras is to look at the lens reflection.
• Turn off the lights and scan the room slowly with a flashlight or laser pointer, looking for bright reflections.
• Scan the room from several places so you don’t miss the camera that is only shown in a few places.
• Inspect any holes or gaps in vents and walls or ceilings.
You can also get an RF detector. This gadget can pick up wireless cameras you haven’t seen. Unfortunately, RF detectors are not good for wired or record-only cameras. For such, you need to follow the lens reflection method.
If you can connect to a rented wireless network, a free program such as Wireless Network Watcher shows which gadgets are connected. You may be able to identify connected cameras that way. I do this on every rental I stay in to double check what’s connected to the network.
Be aware that owners may place cameras on a second network or they may be wired or record-only, so this is not a fail-safe option.
If the home automation system controls rental property, finding cameras is relatively easy. Open the System Controller menu and look for something that refers to the cameras. Similarly, you can suspiciously scan TV channels. I found a lot of cameras on vacation rental this way.
More travel smarts: 5 smart tech steps to take before you get on the road
What to do if you find a camera
If you find an indoor surveillance camera that is not exposed to you, pick up the phone and call the police. Let your landlord have direct evidence that your landlord is spying on you without your knowledge or permission. Use this exact phrase.
Record the situation with video and photos on your smartphone. If you are traveling with others, ask them to testify after the police arrive. Remind them that they too will be victims. After you have received your police report, contact the rental site.
It’s not just annoyance. This is a serious invasion of privacy.
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The opinions and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect USA Today.