Wednesday 24 April 2019

Hidden camera villa remained on websites nine months after Airbnb removed it over family complaint

Aaron, Harriet and Paul Conroy
Aaron, Harriet and Paul Conroy
One of the cameras that was hidden in the bedroom
The apartment where the Conroys were staying
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

A LUXURY villa banned from Airbnb after an Irish family found hidden cameras was still being advertised on other hospitality websites.

The landlord of the Greek villa was suspended from Airbnb following the Conroy family's complaint that there were cameras in "every room" - including the bathroom.

The Conroys were reimbursed and the property taken down from the website.

However, it has emerged that the villa, near Athens, was still advertised on Booking.com and other sites nine months after concerns were raised about the surveillance equipment.

The property is described as a "luxurious flat in a residential area" with a cable flat-screen TV - but no mention is made of cameras in the villa.

Following queries from the Herald yesterday, Booking.com suspended the account.

One of the cameras that was hidden in the bedroom
One of the cameras that was hidden in the bedroom

"We do not tolerate improper behaviour from our accommodation partners," a spokesman said.

"In the rare instance that we're made aware of such a situation, we investigate immediately.

"We have suspended the property in question from our site to begin an investigation."

Yesterday, the Herald revealed how the Conroy family, from Co Meath, were shocked at discovering at least eight cameras in the villa.

The apartment where the Conroys were staying
The apartment where the Conroys were staying

Harriet, husband Paul, sons Aaron and Paul Jr and a friend only found them after spending a night there.

Several of the cameras were disguised inside motion-activated sensors which recorded audio as well as visual.

The family had travelled to the Greek capital last July for a relative's wedding and struggled to find new accommodation after fleeing from the villa as quickly as they could when they uncovered the cameras.

Ms Conroy told the Herald that they first suspected something unusual when they arrived at the villa to collect the keys.

One of her sons discovered a camera the following morning.

The family later found devices in all the rooms of the property, including one pointing at the toilet.

The family fled the villa that day but struggled to secure similar accommodation.

A spokesman for Airbnb said that the firm took immediate action against the homeowner and suspended his account.

"We take privacy issues extremely seriously," he said.

"As soon as we were made aware, we removed this host from our platform and fully refunded the guests.

"We have strict standards governing surveillance devices in listings, and take reports of any violations very seriously.

"There have been more than half a billion guest arrivals on Airbnb to date and issues are incredibly rare."

Rules for hospitality websites, such as Airbnb, state that cameras are never allowed in bathrooms or bedrooms or to be hidden.

The landlord rules also state that hosts must fully disclose any cameras that are not in private or sensitive areas before reservation.

Herald

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