A couple from Indiana, Derek Starnes and his wife, went on vacation to Florida only to find a shocking discovery in their rented room. They rented a home in Longboat Key, as a short-term vacation rental, by using the services of Airbnb for the booking. The home is owned by a 56-year-old man named Wayne Natt (pictured above with his Florida vacation rental home). He has used the Airbnb service to frequently rent out his home over the past two years.
Starnes, who works in the technology industry sector, noticed a small black hole in the smoke detector unit that was attached to the ceiling over the bed in the master bedroom. He was curious about it. It took the unit down and opened it. To his surprise, he found a video camera recording device and a microphone inside.
According to AOL, Starnes immediately reported the discovery to the local police when he realized the owner of the home was secretly recording him and his wife. When the police came to the home, they inspected it thoroughly. They found an additional smoke detector with a hidden camera in another part of the home. During the investigation, they seized the cameras, the computers that they found in the home, and any memory storage media or devices.
Police went on the local news to report the story in order to see if they could find additional victims. They suspect that other rental guests could have been recorded without permission as well as people that the homeowner Natt could have invited to the home or had been dating.
The police arrested Natt. He initially claimed that the cameras were there to record sex parties that he hosts at his home. He also claimed the cameras were not turned on when he rented out the house. His story did not prove to be true, however, as because police discovered a recording of Starnes and his wife that was made by the secret camera device.
In an age when video surveillance is commonplace, most people are unaware of how often they are recorded. In public places where there is no expectation of privacy, cameras are permitted to secretly record audio and video of anything that happens. However, in the privacy of a home, especially in the bathrooms and bedrooms, it is illegal to record any individual activities without first having express permission to do so. The laws to protect this personal privacy exist in Florida and in most other states.
Airbnb issued a statement saying that the company was outraged over the incident. They said that they take privacy issues very seriously and have a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of illegal behavior. They have now permanently banned Natt from using the Airbnb services. Airbnb is fully cooperating with the authorities while they continue the investigation to determine if anyone else in the Airbnb system was a victim.