Smart speakers treated as surveillance

@Suntory - it’s very easy to turn Alexa off. Just unplug the power cord. Takes one second. Of course, it’s your choice on where to stay. Many of our guests appreciate the convenience it offers - we provide Amazon Music unlimited, and they can use our bluetooth speakers to stream music outside without using their own data plan (we’re in the Caribbean and 90%+ of our guests are from the United States).

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Or, you can simply press the “Mute” microphone button. That takes .5 second.


Besides the fact that Alexa and other listening devices continually collect audio data/conversations, and not only the company’s employees have access to these but the homeowner can also gain access, they can also be hacked. We were shocked to see an Alexa on and running in an Airbnb unit. My son pointed it out, unplugged it for us. If he hadn’t been there we might not have noticed it. Just heard a story from a guy who only became aware of an Alexa in a rental unit after 3 weeks. They definitely qualify as surveillance since they work by continual audio collection and also sometimes pick up false cues and execute functions etc. All “smart” devices should be disclosed both in the description and upon arrival, all locations pointed out. Would recommend against staying in one.

Yes they do of course and also a privacy consideration, phones can accidentally dial at the worst possible moments lol, but in that case at least the collected audio files can potentially be accessed by the phone owner through his own account. He can also shut down and put his phone in a separate room from private activity and conversations etc. Switching microphones off in itself isn’t enough, not that reliable. So yes any listening device in an Airbnb or rental unit should be pointed out. Many people would not book there because it seems intrusive and weird. Why would your host want the interior to have surveillance devices? Couldn’t think of any other way for you be able to have tv access or turn lights off and on? Not necessary.

Yes they definitely should be pointed out because they do engage in audio collection, they can also trigger other devices. They also can be accidentally triggered. They can also be hacked and misused. So yes, they are surveillance devices and should be pointed out so people can unplug all units for privacy. It won’t let me put links here but look up:
“nbc news little did she know Alexa was recording every word she”
And watch the Frontline documentaries about them etc.

I sympathize with your view.

It’s possible that Airbnb rules have changed since your post.

Here are the rules now.

So, reading this literally, it would seem that an Echo device, even if disclosed, could not be in a bathroom, bedroom or area with a bed.

That seems unreasonable to me, especially as a guest could simply unplug it so long as disclosed, but Airbnb’s language [“Devices should never monitor private spaces (ex: bedrooms, bathrooms, or common areas that are being used as sleeping areas . . .”] forbids it.

I’m surprised. Am I missing something? @ellec

“heard a story”

“from a guy”

Well, this certainly sounds like a detailed description of the source of the information!

“who only became aware of an Alexa in a rental unit after 3 weeks”

The unit was occupied for 3 weeks and this alexa was not ‘seen’ by ‘a guy’?

But seriously, an Alexa on a kitchen counter should have also been in the house manual or description…

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I agree.

But see my post above. It appears that an Alexa on a nightstand (or in any sleeping area) would violate Airbnb’s policy above.

What strikes me is that it’s about privacy in “sleeping” areas. It’s doubtful that people require so much privacy to “sleep”. So, it isn’t really about the sleeping that goes on in those areas, is it? At which point, I think it’s fair to say that Airbnb is wholly underestimating kitchen tables :rofl:


And laundry rooms. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


bruh, try not to sound like the CIA, ok? the whole term “conspiracy theory” is mostly used to shut down conversation. EG, covid came from a lab, not the Wuhan web markets. gosh, 9months later this “conspiracy theory” is now allowed to be discussed, and 2 years later most thinking people realise it’s true.

“conspiracy theory” now means “spoiler alert”…

my robot vac constantly overrides my wifi to connect herself, and if I walk into the room suddenly she breaks pattern and heads for me. (well not “me”, actually it’s my phone she is interested in), and then i did some research and discovered that the first robot vac (roomba) was developed by the American military, so should i be surprised the Chinese version seems super interested in my data too? call me a “conspiracy theorist” all you like but now you can’t even get a rob vac that doesn’t “need” wifi to operate. (why???) I’m keeping my “old” model for now, she can’t do a firmware update so i feel good. I guess when we all have Social Currency you can mark me down, comrade.

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We have Echo Dots throughout the house (they are there to control the smart plugs - our house was wired without light switches for the rooms!). I reveal them in the listing and also remind the guests via a “help page” posted on the refrigerator, and invite them to unplug them or mute them if they wish.

Some of our guests are on their honeymoon. One day, the Alexa app on my phone announced “My wife is a smokin’ hot babe!” and then did it again. The happy new husband must have told Alexa to tell everyone that!


LOL! Guess what? You are part of the problem, as they say…

It has always meant tinfoil hats and religion-level ‘explanations’ of things that folks want wrapped up neatly (“the current president’s son and hillary clinton ran a pedophile ring in the basement of a pizza parlor” to explain why somehow the former president was not re-elected" or some other BS).

Life tip - if your 10 minutes of google searching refutes the entire scientific community’s research, or uncovers a vast ‘hidden’ explanation of something that conveniently aligns with your suspicions, you just may be a conspiracy theorist. And you are additionally contributing to the dumbing down of our humanity. Pleease… just stop.

Interesting. Technically even my Nest Smoke/CO detectors count as “surveillance” since they can detect presence in the house and signal to the thermostats. Guess I need to disclose both of those.

The definition on Airbnb is “recording devices”. That would seem to mean a device that records sound or visuals. I don’t think smoke alarms and CO detectors count as being recording devices.
However, those devices, if they are present, are normally checked off anyway on listings.

Not a bad idea to mention where they are located, though, as guests have mistaken them (and other things like fire-prevention indoor sprinkler systems) for surveillance devices.

I have Alexa for myself and although it knows a lot about me I don’t really care. There are tons of data about each of us out there, in companies’ databases, not only Amazon’s.
For example I was in a car trip with 2 girlfriends and we were talking about my recent breakup and then we started to talk about dating and related topics and guess what? Although I never post anything personal on FB, never ever, FB started to invited me to join their dating app. So talk about listening!

I’d never put an Alexa in a guest’s room. I’m not sure they’ll record anything on the guest himself - because these devices would access my internet account, so the info will be gathered as if it were mine, but just that I think it’s useless. Why would I put an Alexa in a guest’s room?

We have Apple HomePod minis in each bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. It’s useful for music, sounds that facilitate sleeping, timers, fact questions and more.

It listens only for its cue, ‘Hey Siri!’

And therefore it’s always listening, like a butler in the dining room corner, only activating when summoned, but hearing everything all the dining room guests are saying, regardless.

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Yes, this must be true.

But – and I don’t want to debate this – my understanding is that the privacy protections from an Apple device are different (and ‘better’) than an Alexa device. I didn’t probe on that, just took his word.

I can say – because I have a HomePod mini in my unit, that I don’t receive messages from FB or others that appear related to conversations I have or things I have asked the HomePod mini to do.

I did look this up once and I came away with a sense that there was a positive privacy difference for an Apple vs an Alexa device, though I also got the impression that it’s not an open and shut case. [I think it might have to do with what is saved on Apple servers?]

Our home was built without wall switches for the bedroom lights. So I have at least one floor lamp that’s plugged into a smart plug and controlled by Alexa. Thirty years ago I would have used “The Clapper” for the same purpose.