Airbnb Gives Renters Secret Risk Assessments And Personality Tests

Original article from a privacy blog:

According to an Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) complaint, Airbnb’s secret renter risk assessments are just as specious as the Church of Scientology’s personality tests.

“This complaint concerns Airbnb’s deployment of a risk assessment technique that assigns secret ratings to prospective renters, based on behavior traits using an opaque, proprietary algorithm. Airbnb has failed to show that its technique meets the fairness, transparency, and explainability standards for AI-based decision-making set out in the OECD AI Principles and the Universal Guidelines for AI.”
According to EPIC, Airbnb uses a secret algorithm to generate renter “risk scores.”

*"Airbnb generates a risk assessment score for consumers before their reservations are confirmed.As the company explains on their website: Risk scoring. Every Airbnb reservation is scored for risk before it’s confirmed. We use predictive analytics and machine learning to instantly evaluate hundreds of signals that help us flag and investigate suspicious activity before it happens.”

An interesting comment below the article:

mapiMarch 3, 2020 at 11:03 AM

Secret Airbnb and Consumer Scores Can Be OVER 400 Pages Long:

As consumers, we all have “secret scores”: hidden ratings that determine how long each of us waits on hold when calling a business, whether we can return items at a store, and what type of service we receive. A low score sends you to the back of the queue; high scores get you elite treatment.

Every so often, journalists lament these systems’ inaccessibility. They’re “largely invisible to the public,” The New York Times wrote in 2012. “Most people have no inkling they even exist,” The Wall Street Journal said in 2018. Most recently, in April, The Journal’s Christopher Mims looked at a company called Sift, whose proprietary scoring system tracks 16,000 factors for companies like Airbnb and OkCupid. “Sift judges whether or not you can be trusted,” he wrote, “yet there’s no file with your name that it can produce upon request.”

As of this summer, though, Sift does have a file on you, which it can produce upon request. I got mine, and I found it shocking: More than 400 pages long, it contained all the messages I’d ever sent to hosts on Airbnb; years of Yelp delivery orders; a log of every time I’d opened the Coinbase app on my iPhone. Many entries included detailed information about the device I used to do these things, including my IP address at the time.

Sift has this data because the company has been hired by Airbnb, Yelp, and Coinbase to identify stolen credit cards and help spot identity thieves and abusive behavior. Still, the fact that obscure companies are accumulating information about years of our online and offline behavior is unsettling, and at a minimum it creates the potential for abuse or discrimination.

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I’m one of the people who helped develop these algorithms.

If you think this is unique to Airbnb, you’re fooling yourself. I can’t think of any company that isn’t profiling their consumer’s data, including transmitting it to any number of outside vendors.

20 years ago I was using it to target grocery ads to lifestyle groups. 15 years ago I was using it to determine which marketing message a particular physician received that would best influence their prescribing behavior. I got out of that area, but still have friends in the industry. Almost to a person, they’ve deleted or curtailed their Facebook use and regularly reset the advertising identifiers on their phone (as in weekly). That just lessens your digital footprint, but in no way eliminates it.

Many companies make more money off the sale of consumer data than they do their product/service.

Until citizens re-assert their rights over their data as a 4th amendment privacy issue this will continue.


I guess this is a generic “you,” but if it is a specific “you” (i.e., me), I don’t think and did not indicate that I felt it was specific to Airbnb. Which is why I included “mapi”'s comment that his Sift file had Yelp, Coinbase etc. as well as Airbnb.

Duh. Anyone who is on Facebook with their real name, any bio details of any sort and/or especially children’s photos is completely out of their mind.

That would be me. Am I still allowed to stay at your Airbnb when it opens up again?


Yup. Especially pics of kids and grandkids. What a great way to invite a pedophile into your life.

I’m so glad my children didn’t have FB to deal with when they were growing up. Luddites. I would have raised Luddites.


Most children are abused by someone known to them: dad, cousin Lou, the next door neighbor, the priest and youth pastor. People don’t stop having men in their lives just because 90% of pedophiles are men.

I’m not defending facebook and I think it’s wise to be careful but also think the benefits of social media, used with caution, far outweigh the risks.


True. I’m fully aware that abuse starts with those closest to us. But why add posting the full real names of your kids or grandkids on a public forum with “Johnny comes home from school at 3 and I love seeing him walk up the street!” I was almost snatched off my front yard when I was 7. In the 1960s. Man in car said he had a puppy. I started a scream that sounded like a train whistle and my mom called the cops. He took off, but they found him later with another little girl in the trunk. I am forever thankful that my parents encouraged me to be aware at a young age and to holler for help.


It’s not something I would do, but I think there are a lot of faulty evaluations of risk in our lives. Some of the same people afraid of CV19 and facebook keep unsecured firearms in their bedside tables and don’t make everyone fasten their seatbelts in the car.


In a world where all the “information” we create online and offline can have some value that someone is willing to pay, it is not surprising that this happens and not only with air.
In this particular case, they may want to create the false message that they are doing it to protect their hosts, but in real life, the guest who started a fire in my apartment continues with her account active, the revenge review of 1 star that she made me ( for bringing up the situation with air) was not deleted and I believe that this personal case is no exception to the rule on the platform.


By the way I tried to share the link in a private message with my son and I got this!!
You cannot share this link.

 Your message could not be shared because the link violates our Community Rules.
 If you think this does not violate our Community Rules, let us know.

I don’t have any social media for personal use. I briefly had FedBook as I call it. :wink: I was aghast at a young relative when she answered a question from a stranger and scolded her for it. It was a pic of her son’s first day of school. Okay, reasonable.
Random stranger: What school is he going to?
Relative: [SCHOOLNAME]
Me: Genius idea, giving random strangers on the internet the name of your son’s school.

I think Facebook is cancer, personally. I also am surprised at how many people in my life think I should know what’s going on in theirs, because “I put it on Facebook”. They just assume everyone has it. Everyone doesn’t.


Yes, drives me nuts, too. I miss out on hearing about things going on in my community, or even gatherings that friends are having and to which I would be welcome, simply because they only post it on Facebook, assuming everyone has a Facebook account. No one can be bothered to make a phone call to personally invite or notify someone of anything anymore.
I’ll have people say “You weren’t at XX’s party the other night.”
“Well, no one invited me.”
“Oh, it was open to all. How did you miss seeing it? It was all over Facebook.”

And there are plenty of businesses these days that don’t have a website, their advertising just says to find them on Facebook.
What really pees me off is that hosts say that the way to get the best customer support form Airbnb is to contact them through Twitter or Facebook. I shouldn’t have to join some social media site to get good service from a company I’m already paying service fees to.
And I’m quite shocked at how easily people are willing to give up their privacy.


Yep, generic “you”.

Facebook is just one head of the hydra. There’s a iceberg’s worth of data moving around under the surface which you have no control over.

Take Population Health. Your EHR (electronic health record) will be smashed together with information from your Insurer, Pharmacy, Device (pacemaker, etc), Lab, Employer, HIE (health information exchange), and whatever other data they’d like to get from the marketplace (PRISM demographics), then fed back to any number of care givers, identifying any high risk groups you belong to, or they predict you might join.

Opt out? Ha ha ha. Silly pup, not here!
Privacy? LOL

The idea of privacy, as we think of it, historically speaking is quite new. For 1000s of years everyone a person knew knew most of their “private” business. Most people don’t miss something they never had. I don’t find people’s newly created lament over loss of newly created privacy strange at all.

The idea that some rando 2000 miles away from me or further can know intimate details of my life is quite new.

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Yep. I have Instagram for business which is owned by Facebook and I get invitations all the time to join this or that networking group … many of which I would love to participate in if they were hosted elsewhere. I’m just not interested in Facebook. For me, the pros do not outweigh the cons. I realize I’m in the vast minority. I only switched to a smartphone because I had to and I pretty much hate the damn thing. I like my little tablet, but I try to limit how much I hang out there voluntarily. I don’t “check in” places, for example. Just because some data mining firm can still track my phone, I don’t need to advertise to randos and creeps where I am/have been/regularly go.

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I’d rather have some rando 2000 miles away know my business than the village priest. LOL. Then again, I’m just not a paranoid or private person. I had many fellow teachers think I was absolutely insane to have my address and phone number published in the phone book when I was a public school teacher.

Growing up I had no privacy at home so I guess I just never developed that particular feeling.

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Well just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


LOL. I’m not sure what they are going to get as one can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

To me, the issue and risk with children’s photos on Facebook is not child sexual abuse (by a known person in the child’s life).

It is child sex trafficking, even worse. There are a lot of Jeffrey Epsteins and their ilk around. I’ve taken a look at the registered sex offenders near me, one is less than a block away. It’s a perilous time to be an innocent child.

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