Is There A Hidden Camera In Your Hotel Room?
Spending the night away from home leaves us vulnerable — being in an unfamiliar place, often alone, can trigger worries for many of us (both founded and unfounded).
One of those common worries is the possibility of being spied on in your hotel room.
A recent study suggests that roughly 11% of travelers surveyed report finding a hidden camera in their Airbnb lodgings!
Luckily, security experts assure us that guests of trusted U.S. hotel chains have little to worry about.
For extra peace of mind, however, there are some easy ways to ensure your hotel room is free of hidden cameras.
Are There Hidden Cameras In My Hotel Room?
Hotel rooms are intended to be private places. The idea that someone could be watching you is unsettling.
As you might assume, there are laws surrounding the use of hidden recording devices in private areas. In the United States, it is not legal to record hotel guests in their private spaces without their consent. This includes not just video recording but audio recording as well.
Hotel Security Camera Policies
In most hotels (even very small ones), security cameras are a normal fixture in common areas. This includes the registration desk and hallways, as well as dining, parking and swimming areas.
These surveillance cameras are there for security and to help maintain the safety of the hotel’s staff and guests.
Moreover, these cameras aren’t hidden.
Take a look the next time you are checking into a hotel, and you should be able to find a security camera trained on the front desk.
Hotel security or law enforcement must review camera footage in the event of an emergency or crime. Entry and exit from the hotel should also be monitored to make sure that only hotel guests and staff are present.
Booking for Business Hotels for Large Groups? We offer some tips.
Vacation Rentals And Corporate Housing Camera Policies
In the case of private residences used as vacation rentals, like Airbnb, there are currently no such laws in place. However, recording guests without their knowledge is 100% against Airbnb’s policy.
Hosts who violate this policy face hefty fines and potential criminal investigation, as well as immediate removal from the platform.
Airbnb owners are allowed to place cameras in common areas, such as a kitchen or living room, but they are required to inform guests that there is a camera present.
Vrbo does not allow surveillance of any kind within the home, but does allow it outside the home.
Vrbo stipulates that in cases where a smart device (like a smart TV) might be equipped with a camera, it must be disclosed. Hosts who violate this policy must issue a full refund of the guest’s stay.
Other vacation and corporate rental companies will have varying policies. Be sure to check your rental documents before booking your stay.
When There Might Be Cameras In Your Hotel Room
Even though it is against the law, bad actors will sometimes leave behind hidden cameras in hotel rooms without the hotel’s knowledge.
How Hotels Are Keeping Guests Safe From Prying Eyes
The safety and privacy of guests should always be a hotel’s number one priority.
That is why rooms are routinely inspected in between guests for items that don’t belong or could pose a threat to future guests. Performing a physical inspection of the room during cleaning clears it of any unexpected or suspicious items.
Hotels thwart the efforts of would-be spies by regularly inspecting smoke detectors and other room fixtures for signs of tampering. In addition to checking for hidden cameras, hotel staff are diligent about inspecting smoke detectors for fire safety purposes as well — so anything stowed away there won’t go undiscovered for long.
Performing regular background checks on new staff also helps hotels look out for guest and corporate travel safety. Hotels are very dedicated to maintaining a professional and trustworthy staff.
How To Check For Hidden Cameras In Your Hotel Room
While it is very unlikely that you truly have anything to worry about when it comes to hidden cameras, you can always do your own inspection for peace of mind.
Spying criminals are most likely to choose everyday objects that are commonplace in hotel rooms to hide cameras within.
Some of the most common items where a camera might be hidden include:
- Alarm clocks & clock radios
- Smoke detectors
- Lamps and other lights
Aside from being inconspicuous, these items can usually be disassembled to place a camera inside. This can be done while still serving their primary functions.
Manually Checking For Hidden Cameras
We don’t recommend taking these objects apart throughout your hotel room. For one thing, tampering with a smoke detector could be a safety hazard.
Additionally, if you break any of these items during your camera search, you’ll be held responsible.
Instead, the best way to find cameras that might be hidden inside everyday objects is to shine a bright light on the object. You can do this with your phone’s flashlight setting or any other direct source of bright light.
Camera lenses are often coated with materials that help them to avoid reflection and take clearer images. For this reason, a camera lens will usually shine with a blue or purple tint when you shine a light on them. This can help you to tell the difference between a hidden camera and a harmless indicator light.
If you’re just not sure but still feeling worried, you could always cover up these objects with a towel. You could also unplug the alarm clock and stash it in a drawer until you leave.
Using Apps And Devices To Detect Hidden Cameras
For those who need additional peace of mind — well, there’s an app for that. Yes, there are a number of different apps that you can install onto your phone and use to search for hidden cameras! They operate with a few different types of technology.
Look For Electromagnetic Fields
Cameras, like all electronic gadgets, give off electromagnetic fields while they are working. This electromagnetic field can be detected using apps such as Hidden Camera Detector, made for Android phones by Future Apps.
This app works by using the magnetic sensor inside most mobile phones to detect strong electromagnetic fields in your area. The app works best if you turn off all other electronics in your room, such as your clock radio, microwave and television.
Use Infrared Light
Another way to detect hidden cameras is by searching for the infrared lights inside a camera’s lens.
Many cameras are equipped with infrared light filters to be able to record pictures and videos using night vision. An infrared sensor will be able to detect the presence of these filters, which can tell you if there are any hidden cameras in your area.
The Hidden Camera Detector app mentioned above does include a feature to detect infrared lights. You can also use handheld devices like the Scout Hidden Camera Detector from Spy Guy. It is capable of detecting camera lenses and infrared filters using high-powered LED lights.
Use Your Laptop
If you have a laptop computer with you, there is a third way to check your hotel room for the presence of a hidden recording device. Many spy cameras available on the market today use the internet to record and broadcast footage on social media in real-time.
However, they need to be connected to Wi-Fi to do this.
The Fing App is a desktop app that lets you scan the hotel’s Wi-Fi’s network. All devices connected to the network will be shown in the app, including details like the MAC (Media Access Control) address, vendor and model of the device being used.
Related: Guide to Business Trip Risk Assessments
What Should I Do If I Find A Hidden Camera?
In the rare event that you do find a camera inside your hotel room or bathroom, here are the steps that you should follow:
- Do not attempt to remove or disable the camera. Leave the camera where you found it. If law enforcement becomes involved, they will need to check the camera for fingerprints. There may also be an SD card inside the camera that can be used as evidence. Do not try to remove this SD card.
- Cover the camera with a towel or blanket or anything else you have on hand without touching the camera.
- Alert hotel management immediately. They will contact the police. If you are staying in a private vacation rental, it is best to leave the premises before contacting the police.
- Request a different room from your hotel, or request an immediate refund of your room and book a room at a different hotel.
- Contact your travel booking service to report the incident.
Making sure that their guests’ privacy, safety and security are not compromised in any way is a high priority of any hotel.
That is why no hotel would ever invade their guests’ privacy by recording them without their knowledge, and all take proactive steps to ensure that this is not being done by outside parties.
Rest easy during your travels, knowing that hotels are doing everything within their power to make sure you enjoy your stay without worry.
Audrey Fairbrother is the Content and SEO Manager at Hotel Engine. She spends her days writing about all things business travel, researching topics that are important to Hotel Engine’s audience and cultivating the company’s brand voice. When she’s not working, Audrey enjoys spending time with her family, and hiking in the nearby Rockies with her dog, Albie.