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Snooper of the week: Airbnb

airbnb

Just when you thought that Airbnb was only there to find you a nice comfy bed somewhere for the night, it seems they don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to abuse your privacy as well.


No, it isn’t hidden cameras in the bedrooms, it's something way more sinister than that!


It has come to light that users of their app who are looking to enroll then rent are first subject to profiling. Apart from being pretty intrusive, theirs is actually a little spooky, to say the least. 


Understandably, when you apply for a high ranking position within a major company, extensive background checks are common and, in some regards for legal reasons, necessary. Similarly, but at a lower level, it is common knowledge and practice for potential employers to take a look at candidates' social media for a degree of guidance as to their 'points of view' and public behaviours.


But now AI is rearing it's ugly head in the Airbnb booking process.


Not content with just a standard security deposit, Airbnb is now employing a technology to, somehow, determine if you are likely to trash the rental property...or not. We can tell you this because the so-called 'trait analyser' has been patented in the US and has now shown up in the EU Patent Office.


The software scans everything from social media to newspapers to look for negative information about potential renters. 


Been at a rave lately? You have no chance. Involved in the Porn industry (no matter how peripherally). No way you'll be accommodated. Ever posted on a blog or on a news website? Wee, what you have had to say could well be taken into account. likewise, If they can find out about your education history, then that will also be thrown into the mix. The patent reveals a lot about what they are looking for and includes any references to drugs or alcohol or association with fake news outlets.


Frankly, you'd be better off "trying the Y"!!!


This all appears to have come about following Airbnb's acquisition of the background checking service, Trooly, which had previously described their predictions as “free of bias”. Well not any longer it would seem...and the whole thing strikes us as being extremely judgmental. Privacy concerns apart, we think we'll see a lot more legitimate renters being blacklisted for no real reason and that is just wrong!


So if you want to rent a little place in the countryside for a weekend getaway, you’d probably be better making the Airbnb booking in your maiden aunt's name. She will surely pass muster (assuming she hasn't passed away!).


 

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