Woman sues Airbnb after discovering a hidden video camera in their rented apartment

A German couple recently slammed Airbnb with a lawsuit, as they had reportedly found a hidden video camera during their stay in the rented Airbnb property in Irvine, California two years ago. The video camera with a wide-angle lens was placed behind a bookshelf in the living room was allegedly quite advanced. The camera not only picked up both audio and video, but also was configured in such a way that it could be controlled remotely.

Filed by Yvonne Schumacher of Germany, the lawsuit also names the owners of the apartment, Fariah Hassim and Jamil Jiva as defendants. According to the complaint, Schumacher and her partner Kevin Stockton had initially reserved the apartment from December 16, 2013 through January 12, 2014.

Airbnb, which has risked its company reputation on community, openness, and trust, has stated that it has a “zero-tolerance policy” for hidden cameras, and requires that hosts entirely reveal the presence of any such devices and obtain their guests’ consent. However, this is not enough for Schumacher, who has now pressed two charges of negligence against Airbnb, as well as wiretapping, privacy intrusion, and infliction of emotional distress against Hassim and Jiva.

It all started after moving in for what was supposed to be a relaxing three-week stay for the German couple, things began to go awry. For starters, Schumacher had to file a complaint with Airbnb, as she discovered that the place was incredibly filthy. It was more alarming, when Schumacher and Stockton uncovered the video camera between two candles on the third day of their stay. They realized that “the camera was actually moving, demonstrating that it was being remotely controlled by the camera’s operator.”

Compounding the invasion of privacy is the fact that Schumacher claims to sleep and, at times, walk around in the nude.

The complaint reads in part:

Notably, while staying as a guest in the property, at night Mrs. Schumacher would sleep without any clothing, believing that with the front door closed and the window blinds drawn throughout the property, she was protected from prying eyes. This natural presumption proved to be incorrect.

In as much as the master bathroom was so filthy, Mrs. Schumacher used the bathroom for the guest room, meaning that she walked naked through the apartment from the master bedroom to the guest bathroom. In doing so, she walked within full view of the property’s living room.

Also, the complaint says that Schumacher and her partner, Kevin Stockton, spoke of “highly personal matters,” which violated her privacy on a daily basis. It also says that they did what any couple would do while on vacation in another country that was only unbeknownst to them, which was all caught on camera.

“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 reads. “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.”

Schumacher claims that Airbnb did not perform a background investigation into the couple leasing out the apartment. As a result, she claims this type of behaviour was adequately foreseeable as to render Airbnb guilty.

Due to Airbnb’s inaction, Schumacher says that she was “subjected to a hostile, intimidating, and humiliating environment during her stay within the property.” The lawsuit is looking for money damages, punitive damages, and to top it all off, attorney’s fees.

“As a direct and proximate result of Airbnb’s misfeasance,” the complaint reads, “Plaintiff has suffered general damages, including, but not limited to, humiliation, shock, embarrassment, intimidation, physical distress and injury, fear, stress, and other damages to be proven at the time of trial.”

Clearly, this isn’t a good look for Airbnb. For the time being, Airbnb has promised to “defend it vigorously.” A spokesperson noted, “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.”