Airbnb has Unconscious bias towards the host

Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.

Following 2 conversations with the frontline staff, I asked Ian if I could speak to a supervisor regarding my concern that Airbnb is demonstrating an unconscious bias towards the host.

Profile photos of guests cannot be seen by a host until the host accepts the guest’s booking. If I understand correctly, this was introduced as a policy by Airbnb as some guests believed they were finding it difficult to gain accommodation due to their photo?

However biases works in both ways!

When I search as a guest for accommodation I can see the host photo, and it is equally possible for a guest to not choose accommodation because of biases towards the host photo.

In order to create equality photos of both guests and host should be treated the same

I look forward to seeing both hosta and guest being treated equally.

Kind Regards Fiona

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Hi Fiona,

Welcome to this independent forum of hosts. Your post is interesting, but please be aware that it will not get to AirBnB itself. You will however find a lot of experienced hosts starting to discuss your post here.

My 5 cents on pictures of hosts. I prefer to show our faces to potential guests. First of all, it helps them familiarize with our face, so when they arrive they have a sense that they already know us. Secondly, if people for whatever reason decide not to stay with us because of our photo, I totally welcome this. I can do without this kind of prejudiced or superficial guest. So in conclusion, I’m totally in favor of always showing pictures of hosts (and guests for the matter).


Welcome to the forum @fiona11 where do you host and how long have you been hosting?

Have you read this

Personally and as someone from a ethnic minority background, I am happy that Airbnb have introduced this move to help stop hosts who discriminate, from doing so based on seeing a guests photo.

I have no problem a guest seeing my profile photo before they book. As @GutHend says if they choose not to say with me, because of the colour of my skin, or other prejudice they may hold, they are guests I am glad not to have.

I can’t agree with your point regarding ‘equality’ as the guest making the booking is not in an equal position to the host. It is completely irrelevant what the guest looks like before they book- I am much more interested in whether they are checking in, within my check in times, why they chose my place and plans for their stay.

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Dear GutHend,

I agree with you transparency is essential both host and guest should be able to see photos at the same stage of the book either before they book or after the booking is made that is equality

I have sent my concerns to Airbnb in writing and discussed it with them and they asked me to feedback this concern.
This has nothing to do with whether individuals host prefers to share or not share their photos its about equality and treating everyone the same.

Companies should be aware of if they create unconscious bias and clearly, Airbnb has tried to do what they believe is right but as often happens it has unintended consequences.

I too prefer to show my photo and I like to see a photo of my guests prior to their booking I believe in transparency and people being treated equally.

Inaddion studied published biased show that there is a high degree of bias towards certain names and that should Airbnb wish to reduce bias a person should just show initially!

we cant eradicate unconscious bias but we should at least try to be aware of or own bises

Kind regards Fiona

Playing Devil’s Advocte here:

It’s NOT unconscious bias. Airbnb is deliberately biased against hosts. It is their business and they can run it any way they please. I’m not in favor of the way it is done; but that’s the way it is. Their attitude is that if you don’t like it, you don’t have to use them to advertise your property. Nothing wrong with that. A handful of voices crying in the wilderness of millions of hosts is scarcely going to be heard.

@fiona11 said "I have no problem a guest seeing my profile photo before they book. As @GutHend says if they choose not to say with me, because of the colour of my skin, or other prejudice they may hold, they are guests I am glad not to have.

Why should ONLY guests have this ability to be prejudice? Why should be hosts not be able to discriminate against potential guests as well. Surely turn-about is fair play. Again, note that I am NOT is favor of prejudice in this direction either.


agree its all about being fair and equal. I will be interested to see what Airbnb official response to me is…

Yes the hosts who are cute, photogenic or a certain race will probably get more higher paying reservations but they will certainly get different kinds of guests staying with you depending on who you are. Guests will seek out the kind of host they want.

Airbnb isn’t here to fight for social justice. They’re here to make money. They make PR statements and set policies that are anti-discrimination, equal rights etc but they have to do that to help their image as a company. If they said “We’re here to make money and we’ll do the minimum required to obey the law while doing that” they’d have terrible PR. They have better PR if they do what they’re doing and that means they make more money. If they hid host photos, some guests would lose confidence and Airbnb would make less money. Guests want to discriminate. Thats the whole point of the reviews etc. Guests are making decisions. Airbnb can’t stop guests from taking race and gender into consideration in making their decision but they could remove that information. I know for a fact though that there are a lot of people who won’t rent from a single man and only do “females or couples” in my country at least. Airbnb would lose a lot of rentals if they didn’t let guests see host photos.

For the hosts, you don’t have to post your actual picture. For many guests, it wouldn’t affect their decision either way.

I’ve swapped out hosts on listings and I can definitely tell you that changing nothing else but the hosts gender or race has a big effect on the guests you get booking.


You have a good point, Fiona. Somehow I got it in my head that guests couldn’t see hosts until they booked either. And in discovering the truth, what you and the other hosts are saying is quite true.

As hosts we are supposed to be colour blind. When I go to a hotel, odds are that the manager doesn’t have a photo.

What your point brings home is that sometimes Airbnb sucks and blows at the same time.


@fiona11, you mean a bias against the host, not toward the host.

There are too many things wrong about the photo policy on Airbnb.

  1. Guests aren’t actually required to have photos at all, even after booking. Around 25% of my guests have had photos of pets or something else in the profile, and another 25% were photos of large groups of people where you didn’t know who the guest was.

  2. A host that is discriminating can still do so. The host can use their 3 free cancellations and even pay the $100 fine to cancel on a guest if they feel that strongly about it. A host could also make up stuff after the guest checked in and report it to Airbnb. And of course a host can give guests bad reviews based on some racial/ethnic bias. Hopefully, Airbnb would detect a pattern and ban the host, but going by how well most of their other algorithms work, they may never detect it.

Honestly, as a guest, I wouldn’t want to stay with a host with a
racial/ethnic/whatever bias against me. But, maybe the problem is that there are some areas where nearly all hosts would act this way so it would be impossible for some guests to get accommodations?

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Why assume that there are whole regions of hosts that want nothing to do, for example, with Peruvians? Peruvians, Latvians, and undiscovered tribes in the Amazon are all good for business.

People are quick to jump to sordid conclusions. A Harvard study is not necessarily an empirical one. It’s just that Air doesn’t want to be accused of supporting racism.

All I want to do is recognize them when they show up with fresh piranhas. Fire up the Barbie.


Sorry @Brian_R170 your first point isn’t actually true.

  1. You can tick the box on your listing that says you only accept guests with photos. Then a guest can’t book without uploading a photo. I have it in my house rules that I only accept guests with clear profile photos of themselves. I would say about 95% of my guests provide this. Where they don’t I ask them to provide it.

If you are getting such an unusually high number who don’t provide a photo of themselves. You could put it in your house rules too.

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AirBnB does not care about hosts or guests, only about their image. Their whole anti racism policy is one big charade to silence the SJW’s and Media. If they really wanted to do something about racism they would also scrap the names and location the guest is coming from, and force 100% IB like BDC does.

A host is just a resource, and as long as there are still plenty of naive hosts that are willing to bend over backward for AirBnB, and even hand over their money and control to AirBnB, nothing wil change.

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I had a friend who started up her AirBnB and she accepted a reservation that went very bad. Required her to have to ask guests to leave and involve AirBnB.
The guest’s profile pic was the two of them giving the “finger” with shite eating grins!?!? She told me that after the fact.
That profile pic would have been my first clue to decline.


Yes, but today, it’s a flawed method. On Airbnb today, having a profile doesn’t mean having a photo of yourself, so even a host that looks at the guest’s profile photo won’t really know if the photo is actually of the guest until the guest shows up and the host meets them and checks the guest’s ID. This isn’t practical for all hosts, not to mention that if the photo/ID doesn’t check out, things will get ugly for the host with Airbnb’s current cancellation and review policies, and inconsistent customer service.

What is annoying to me is that profile photo verification is something that Airbnb could do automatically as part of the government ID verification (not foolproof, but still to the same degree that hosts can), but… they don’t.

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I responded to what you complained about in your initial post @Brian_R170

Which is not true as I have already pointed out, you can tick a box to require photos. And it was always the case that you couldn’t be sure the person in the profile photo is the person who travels.

I am another of the hosts on this forum who feels that some hosts expect far too much of Airbnb.

How would Airbnb checking photo ID as part of their verification process ensure the photo the guest uses on their profile is actually of themselves?

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And yet at the same time it seems that those hosts who expect Airbnb to run our businesses for us are often complaining about the fees Airbnb charge. If Airbnb were to do more, then those fees would increase enormously.


They can ensure that a guest’s profile photo matches the guest’s government ID the same as they already do for the “selfie” and this small step could be completely automated. Of course, they can’t ensure a guest that shows up at a listing is the same person in the profile.

I am not sure that they can @Brian_R170 . My passport photo looks nothing like my profile photo and I am sure it is the same for many others.

Also as you know not all hosts choose to host guests with verified ID and not all guests want to provide it.

As @jaquo points out if hosts want this it is likely to increase the cost of our fees.

Wow what on earth made her accept a guest with that sort of profile photo @MaryJO?

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I would be very surprised if Airbnb is using humans for the selfie/government ID verification. The technology has existed for many years to do photo comparisons using computers and it’s much more accurate than comparisons by humans. If they are already using it, then the cost to implement the same thing for profile photos would effectively be zero, and of course it may actually provide a financial benefit (such as reducing cancellations, reducing host guarantee payouts, etc.).

This is why I am annoyed they don’t do it. The only reason they wouldn’t is because they want to continue to give guests a perception of anonymity. But, if they want to be more hotel-like, they will start doing it eventually.