Airbnb is facing a new lawsuit over a hidden camera in a rented apartment. Filed yesterday in Northern California District Court, the case concerns an Irvine, California apartment with a wireless camera allegedly installed in the living room. The plaintiff, a German woman named Yvonne Schumacher, says she was unaware of the camera, which allegedly captured both naked footage and private conversations. The case brings two charges of negligence against Airbnb itself, as well as charges of wiretapping, privacy intrusion, and infliction of emotional distress against the couple who rented the home.
Schumacher stayed in the apartment beginning on December 13, 2013. According to the complaint, Schumacher "possesses limited English skills" so all of the actual rental business had to be done through Kevin Stockton, her companion during the trip. Schumacher was never informed of the camera, and slept and walked through the living room of the apartment without clothing as a result, believing that she was in an entirely private space.
"Mrs. Schumacher is deeply humiliated and angry"
"Mrs. Schumacher and Mr. Stockton discussed many highly personal matters," the complaint reads, "which included financial matters, the nature of their relationship, and, essentially, private and intimate details that a couple discusses in private."
On the third day of the trip, Schumacher noticed a light coming from behind some candles in the living room and discovered the camera. It was capable of audio recording and moved in response to various events, suggesting to Schumcher that it was being controlled remotely. Schumacher and Stockton left the apartment immediately, and filed a complaint with the company, although it does not appear to have prevented the apartment from being rented out to others.
"Airbnb takes privacy issues extremely seriously."
"Mrs. Schumacher is deeply humiliated and angry about the fact that the camera was and/or could have been used to spy upon her while she was completely undressed and walking around within the property," the complaint alleges. "Moreover, she has been and continues to be concerned that images of her exist in electronic form and could make their way onto the Internet or some other medium."
It's not the only time Airbnb has run into privacy problems. In January of this year, Airbnb faced similar issues over a hidden camera in the bedroom of a Montreal apartment. The discovery was initially posted on Reddit, then spread throughout the media at large. Airbnb added a camera policy in November of 2014, asking hosts to fully disclose any cameras and get consent where required. Still, the changes would have come nearly a year after Schumacher and Stockton rented the apartment in Irvine.
"Though we do not comment on pending litigation we will defend it vigorously," an Airbnb representative said in a comment. "Airbnb takes privacy issues extremely seriously. All hosts must certify that they comply with all applicable laws in their locations and are of course expected to respect the privacy of their guests."