Woman sues Airbnb and Irvine couple, saying she was recorded by hidden camera in apartment
A German woman is suing the short-term rental website Airbnb and an Irvine couple, saying she was filmed without her knowledge while she was renting the couple’s apartment near the Irvine Spectrum.
The lawsuit, which Yvonne Schumacher filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Northern California, alleges her privacy was violated when she was recorded with a remote-controlled camera while staying at Fariah Hassim and Jamil Jiva’s apartment in the 11000 block of Spectrum, which she had rented through Airbnb.
Schumacher and her companion, Kevin Stockton, began their stay at the apartment on Dec. 16, 2013. Schumacher alleges in court documents that she was never told about the camera in the living room and often walked through the room without clothing.
“Notably, while staying as a guest in the property, at night Mrs. Schumacher would sleep without any clothing, believing that with the front door closed and the window blinds drawn throughout the property, she was protected and free from prying eyes,” the lawsuit states. “This natural presumption proved to be incorrect.”
The couple also discussed “highly personal matters,” including finances, the nature of their relationship and other intimate details, according to court documents.
On their third day in the apartment, Stockton noticed a light coming from a shelf in the living room. He found the camera hidden between candles, the lawsuit states.
According to the complaint, the camera was on and capable of recording video and audio during the day and at night.
“The couple discovered that the camera was actually moving, demonstrating that it was being remotely controlled by the camera’s operator,” the document alleges.
The couple complained to Airbnb and left the apartment. However, Schumacher alleges that Airbnb continued to list the property on its site.
Schumacher is seeking an unspecified amount of money from Airbnb and the Irvine couple, plus attorneys’ fees and any other relief a jury might award.
“Mrs. Schumacher is deeply humiliated and angry about the fact that the camera was and/or could have been used to spy upon her while she was completely undressed and walking around within the property,” the complaint states. “Moreover, she has been and continues to be concerned that images of her exist in electronic form and could make their way onto the Internet or some other medium.”
An Airbnb spokesman said in an email that the company does not comment on pending litigation, but he added, “We will defend it vigorously.”
The company asks hosts to disclose security cameras and other surveillance equipment and to get consent from renters where required, said the spokesman, who would not allow his name to be published.
“Airbnb takes privacy issues extremely seriously,” he said. “All hosts must certify that they comply with all applicable laws in their locations and are, of course, expected to respect the privacy of their guests.”