The Philadelphia house purportedly shown in a viral social media post about hidden cameras in an Airbnb rental ultimately did not have undisclosed recording devices, according to police — but still set off a wave of privacy concerns for guests.
Philadelphia police said Tuesday evening that an investigation was conducted of the property and it didn’t have cameras hidden in fire sprinklers as was alleged by a guest Sunday night on Twitter.
“The incident was investigated by our Special Victims Unit. The detective(s) did not find any hidden or undisclosed cameras. The fire sprinklers are sprinklerheads,” a Police Department spokesperson said in an email.
The original tweet, which had received more than 61,000 retweets and nearly 300,000 likes as of 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, had claimed that there were multiple cameras in the property.
On Sunday night, Twitter user @foxytaughtyou posted a thread that included pictures of what she said appeared to be cameras shoddily installed throughout the Airbnb where she said she had been staying with friends. According to a video she posted, they fell asleep on a couch, and woke up staring into what they thought was a camera lens.
“BE CAUTIOUS BOOKING AIR BNBs! My friend & I recently stayed at a air bnb in Philadelphia with over 10 hidden cameras all over the house. Including the showers and bedrooms. Some were disguised as sprinkler systems but it has a camera lens,” she wrote on Twitter.
She did not respond to direct messages seeking comment.
An Airbnb spokesperson said the lead police detective on the case “confirmed that he did not find any hidden or undisclosed cameras and that the fire sprinklers had regular sprinklerheads,” and the case would be closed.
The company said the guest would still be given a refund for the stay.
In all Airbnb rentals, hidden cameras and recording devices in bedrooms, bathrooms, or sleeping areas are prohibited. Airbnb allows recording devices in public or common spaces such as driveways, but the homeowner must disclose that information ahead of a guest’s stay.
“Our policies strictly prohibit hidden cameras and we take forceful action in the exceptionally rare circumstances where this has been reported, including assisting law enforcement to help them hold criminals accountable,” the Airbnb spokesperson said in a statement.
The spokesperson did not say where in Philadelphia the house was.
Airbnb says they believe hidden cameras in their listings are rare, but other guests have called attention to them. In 2019, a couple said they had found hidden cameras in a San Diego Airbnb they had stayed in, NBC7 reported. The couple eventually sued the homeowner.
In August, TikTok user Marcus Hutchins, who described himself as an ex-hacker teaching cybersecurity, posted an informational video that gave prospective guests tips on how to spot hidden cameras. Hutchins suggested shining a light into places that one suspected of holding a camera, including alarm clocks, smoke detectors, and USB charging blocks.
“Now one way to see if the device is a camera is to shine a bright light at it. If you hit a camera lens it’s going to get a bluish reflection,” Hutchins says in the video.
Others advise springing for expensive but effective “bug detectors” that can identify hidden cameras and microphones in a room.