Home Security – February 11, 2018

Surveillance in the age of the shared economy

Experts agree: the sharing economy has officially arrived. Services such as Uber, TaskRabbit, Lyft, and LendingClub have all allowed consumers to cut out the middleman and directly share services with one another, allowing higher efficiency and lower costs.


One of the sharing economy’s biggest success stories is AirBnB. Founded in 2008, this platform allows homeowners to offer vacant rooms (or apartments, houses, or castles!) in their homes to travelers hoping to avoid hotels. It’s proven to be a very successful business model-Business Insider recently reported that Airbnb now has four million listings worldwide, more than all five of the world’s top hotel chains combined.

People have been choosing Airbnb over other hospitality options more and more for a variety of reasons. Hospitality management service Guesty reflects that travellers often prefer the more authentic, locality-specific experience that comes from staying in a community home rather than an anonymous hotel room. According to USA Today, AirBnB is dramatically cheaper than hotels in many major cities. Whatever the reason, consumers who have tried AirBnB are usually reluctant to return to the hotel grind once they’ve experienced home-sharing.

But new economies present new obstacles for both providers and consumers, and the homestay world is no exception. Theft has proven to be a significant problem – the website AirBnB Hell, a collection of homestay horror stories, has a section devoted specifically to thefts and break-ins. Well-meaning guests may not know or remember to fully secure their unfamiliar temporary abodes, and thieves often target AirBnB locations because they know visitors are often out sight-seeing, while neighbors are used to seeing the occasional unfamiliar face. Travelers often leave things of value, such as spare cash, important documents, and electronics in their homestays, making them attractive targets for burglars.

AirBnB does offer host insurance, but this protection doesn’t extend to damage or thefts committed by a third party during the homestay. Property Casualty 360 recently called the exact workings of AirBnB’s host insurance policy a “mystery” and observed that their “Host Guarantee” exposes hosts to significant monetary losses. Financial comparison site ValuePenguin points out that because AirBnB rarely covers “personal property” loss or damage, hosts must turn to renter or homeowner insurance policies, but those policies will often refuse to cover damage on the grounds that the host is running a “business.”

Hosts running out of options to prevent burglary often consider putting in security cameras to protect their homes. But guests and the AirBnB platform itself have both expressed some concern about putting monitoring devices in homes and apartments. After all, would you like to see a camera mounted in your hotel room, even if you knew it was just for security?

AirBnB’s official rules now require hosts to disclose any surveillance devices in the home, even if they’re unhooked or turned off. And guests have grounds to be concerned about their privacy in an AirBnB rental. Gizmodo reports that an Indiana couple recently discovered a hidden camera and microphone recording their rented AirBnB bedroom in Florida. The host was eventually charged with criminal video voyeurism.

And this isn’t an isolated incident – Buzzfeed recently published a rundown of several incidents across the globe where AirBnB guests found cameras hidden in their rentals. The sharing economy is built on a principle of trust; just like Uber riders trust their drivers to take them to a requested location safely, AirBnB guests trust hosts to respect their privacy. But how can hosts balance this legitimate concern with the equally troubling problem of home break-ins?

Angee provides a solution for both security-conscious hosts and privacy-conscious guests. Angee can keep track of who’s home using both its camera and a series of security tags that can be placed at exits, entrances, and vulnerable points such as windows. Different modes are set depending on whether pre-authorized users are home and whether it’s day or night.

These modes are key in letting Angee meet both guest and host needs. When pre-approved users – a group that can be set by the host to include specific guests – are home, Angee’s camera turns and faces the wall. Guests receive immediate physical reassurance that they’re not being recorded because the camera can’t even see them! If approved users are home and anyone outside the house attempts to access the camera or sound monitoring capabilities, Angee will alert in-home users to get permission or denial for any access attempt.

Guests can know, for sure, that their privacy is intact, and if the homeowner ever needs to remotely check up on the property, guests will get a heads-up and be able to give permission. Hosts, meanwhile, can continue to benefit from Angee’s comprehensive security benefits. They’ll be alerted if Angee detects non-authorized people in the house, and they can use the Angee app to view a live stream of the Angee camera whenever they need to check in. Angee can also use its camera and security tags to detect, document, and alert users to possible threat indicators, such as fire alarms or broken windows.

The sharing economy has faced some unexpected obstacles, but that doesn’t mean that homestays can’t be rewarding experiences for both hosts and guests. Angee just makes sure those experiences are safe and private.