Airbnb offers hosts ‘creepy’ spy bugs that ‘listen out for parties’ and send text alerts

Airbnb is offering discounts on ‘creepy’ bugs that ‘listen out for parties’ and send text alerts to hosts’ phones when guests get too rowdy. 

Devices on the list include Noise Aware’s Indoor sensor, which listens out for sustained sound level, and the Minut, which monitors noise alongside temperature, motion and humidity inside a host home.

Airbnb says in its rules that these devices can be used providing guests are made aware of their presence.

Airbnb is offering discounts on devices that monitor sounds in hosts’ houses, but say that guests must be made of their presence before making a booking

The Minut is offered with more than 30 per cent off at $99 (£76.42)

while Noise Aware's Indoor Sensor is offered at 25 per cent off for $149 (£115)

The Minut is offered with more than 30 per cent off at $99 (£76.42) while Noise Aware’s Indoor Sensor (right) is offered at 25 per cent off for $149 (£115)

Under the ‘party prevention’ section of its website, the home rental service says it wants to offer discounts on listening devices until April to ‘protect your space, maintain the privacy of your guests, and preserve your relationship with neighbours’.

NoiseAware’s device is offered at 25 per cent off, for $149 (£115), while the Minut has 34 per cent off, taking it to $99 (£76.42). 

The Roomonitor, which will alert your phone and guests’ phones, if offered at better than half price for $39 (£30). 

The noise sensors don’t record sound, but rather monitor changes in noise levels.

They are listening out for sustained noise above 70 decibels, the sound of a party. Sounds at 60 to 70 decibels tend to be produced by loud TVs or stereos, while sounds around 50 to 60 decibels are produced by a conversation.

The offer comes after homes rented out through the app have been trashed by guests and turned into the venues for large, raucous parties.

A mansion in Chelsea was left with £445,000 of damage in April 2017, after guests used it to host a party of up to 500 people.

The owner Michael Howard, 67, rented out the house to what he thought was a family of four. 

He filed claims for damages with the High Court at the end of last year, saying Airbnb had only offered to refund him £102,586.

A property in Levenshulme, Manchester, was also destroyed by guests in April 2019 after it was rented out through the app for an 18th birthday party.

Residents living nearby said the property’s windows were shaking as the party spilled onto the street.

Privacy groups have branded Airbnb’s decision to offer listening devices at discounts as ‘creepy’.

Security company CyberCare UK’s spokesman Kez Garner said the monitors could give ‘false positives’, such as if a baby was crying.

‘I’m a landlord and I wouldn’t want to do it with my long-term tenants,’ he told The Times.

‘I have to trust that they’re going to use the property in the right way. People expect privacy in houses and hotels; you wouldn’t expect to be monitored.

‘Even if I was having a wild party, I would rather the property owner was not getting alerts. If they are doing that, what else are they able to see and hear?’

The deputy director of Fight for the Future, a digital rights advocacy website, told Vice News: ‘We’re hurtling towards a world where almost everything we own is monitoring us in some way.’

Airbnb says on its website that hosts have to let guests know about any devices in the property, and should do this through their ‘home rules’.

‘If a host discloses the device after booking, Airbnb will allow the guest to cancel the reservation and receive a refund,’ they said. ‘Host cancellation penalties may apply.’

‘We prohibit any security cameras and other recording devices that are in or that observe the interior of certain private spaces (Such as bedrooms and bathrooms), regardless of whether they’ve been disclosed.’