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What’s Wrong with Airbnb’s New Verified ID System

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Editor’s Note 04.10.15:  It’s been almost two years since this post, and it remains one of the most active on our blog. A lot has happened with AirBnB since then, including a)  $675M of additional capital in five rounds, b) paying out ”tens of millions” of taxes to make nice with San Francisco, their home base, and c) remaining leaders in design inspired solutions. 

But when we compared this story to today’s reality, there was one thing that stood out: most of the comments below are about one singular topic, the user’s satisfaction.

Yes, the service was provided (someone slept there), but in some way the user was left wanting. So, we reasoned, if AirBnB (and others) are going to continue to lead sharing into the third wave, they will need continued improvement in user satisfaction by doing trust, safety, and quality even better. For a possible solution to this problem- and the comments below- check out TrustCloud’s Satisfaction Guarantee, Peer Protect. Here’s a brief video explaining it.

Now, here’s the original article, and the comment string.

~~~~~Published June 2013 ~~~~~~

How much information are people willing to surrender in order to improve their own safety?

A pertinent question, given the uproar over the recent NSA leaks over top secret data mining and surveillance programs. Of course, Airbnb is not the NSA, but they’ve been facing a similar dilemma since their new Verified ID system launched at the end of April in an effort to promote trust and safety between Airbnb guests and hosts. Instead, it triggered a backlash among some users and may have done more harm than good.

Basically, the new verification system requires Airbnb travelers to submit a form of offline identification, either their passport or photo ID, along with access to their Facebook or LinkedIn profile in an attempt to match users online and offline identification. Users that do not satisfy the online ID requirements are then asked to submit a short video introducing themselves to other Airbnb members.

Doc Searls, a long-time Airbnb user and aficionado of online identity systems, wrote this blog post recently, titled, “Let’s help Airbnb rebuild the bridge it just burned.” A quick scroll through will give you a good idea of some of the new system’s shortcomings. Ironically, many users cite their unwillingness to buy into the new identification system due to a lack of trust in Airbnb’s online security. Others simply didn’t see the need for Airbnb to require passports and Facebook accounts when what they’ve done in the past has worked just fine.

Airbnb has had tremendous success in the past because the entire service was built around one key purpose: bridging the gap between travelers and hosts. In a way, this new verification system acts as a wedge that splits the two, adding an additional obstacle that might discourage anyone not comfortable with sharing additional information.

That’s why if I were a host, I wouldn’t want to lose bookings for requirements that I don’t need. If I can tell you have a clean track record but you haven’t verified your Facebook account, I’d probably be okay with you staying in my place. And if not, I might impose stricter requirements, only accepting people who have verified accounts. As a result, I might be better protected, but I’d also get fewer bookings. That’s a fair compromise.

For some Airbnb users, verification through Facebook/LinkedIn is a step backward. Airbnb has collected users’ addresses, phone numbers, credit cards, even social security numbers (for tax documents), so why do they need access to social profiles? One disgruntled user had this to say in the comments on the Airbnb blog:

“My ‘reality’ has been verified by my hosts and my guests: people in four countries have left feedback about their experiences with me… I’m happy to send you my drivers license, but don’t see why you would need it, when you already have the rest. There is just no way I’m linking up my Facebook account so you can data mine my friends, keep an eye on my day to day activity, or examine my relationships. There are enough safety checks on me through the relationship we’ve already developed.”

In defense of Airbnb, what they’re trying to do makes a lot of sense. Anonymity is a serious issue for a service that encourages users to let strangers stay in their homes, especially when Airbnb is underwriting the insurance. The Verified ID system is a commendable effort toward that end. I don’t think people have any problem with verifying who they are, they’re just not comfortable with giving up more personal data when they don’t see the need, and rightfully so. In the digital age, a user’s data might be their most valuable asset. It should be safeguarded and used with discretion. It should belong, as we say, to the people.

A reasonable compromise may be found in the world of third-party online reputation systems, like TrustCloud. These services work on the side of the consumer by giving total control over how much information users are comfortable with providing, and at the same time giving Airbnb what they need, which is verification, without giving up access to users’ data.

What Airbnb needs to do next is reconnect with their community and find a way to meet safety requirements with information users are willing to share. If some are reluctant to connect their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, they should be free to keep using the service without a Verified badge so Airbnb can see if it causes a drop-off in guest approvals and bookings. How users respond to the Verified ID badge is the best indicator as to whether or not the new system is actually improving the Airbnb experience.

Would you trust Airbnb with a copy of your passport and access to your Facebook account? Let us know in the comments.


Have a story about an AirBnB stay gone wrong? Share it with TrustCloud and help shape the future of satisfaction and trust in the sharing economy!


86 Comments

  1. This may have been said by some people prior to myself, but for the people complaining that they need to provide ID as a requirement for some hosts:

    Would you really honestly comfortable with a complete stranger who had no previous reviews or identification verified staying in your own house?

    The whole point of the verification system is so that random people can’t rob or hurt them.

    I recently stayed as a guest at at Airbnb, and the host asked me to verify my ID on the site itself so that he felt more comfortable renting out his place to a stranger who was new to Airbnb. All you need to do is take a copy of your drivers license and verify ONE of either a Gmail, Facebook, or LinkedIn profile!

    I understand not providing your personal information if the people hosting/requesting this have NO reviews, or don’t have a verified ID themselves, but have some common sense people!

    Reply
    • EVEN THE MOST SECURE DATA CAN BE HACKED BY CYBERCRIMINALS. Money Magazine reports “Lately, a new data breach has been reported almost every week” (http://time.com/money/3528487/data-breach-identity-theft-jp-morgan-kmart-staples/). ID theft being what it is today, paranoia is your friend.

      You and I don’t KNOW how to hack, make fake ID’s, steal data from uploaded DL’s but the bad guys DO know how.

      In his response to my refusal to upload these sensitive personal ID documents, here’s what Airbnb’s James K wrote to me: Any information…is transmitted using SSL – the same secure encryption that websites use to transmit credit card numbers. We also “hash” any information (converting it into a more secure string of letters, numbers, and symbols) and our partners store the information in hashed form as well. The Verified Identification…is accessible only to a limited and highly-screened group of Airbnb employees. Oh, good.

      Then James K has the audacity to state: I have been traveling with Airbnb long before I was employed by them and I can say with complete confidence that I trust their security measures. Oh, good.

      Hacked companies all used SSL, super secure encryption, the hashing of info, limited internal access and all had genuine desire to maintain their integrity and trust in their community. THEY DON’T GET HACKED ON PURPOSE!

      Finally, I know several Airbnb hosts personally and none are aware of this Verified ID process nor have they ever asked for a more secure process for their own peace of mind. One host told me that before accepting a new tenant, “I’d rather have Verified Photos of how they care for their own home or a Verified Business CV and the ability to call references.” Of course, neither of those items would help the Airbnb profit center.

      Reply
  2. AirBNB nearly ruined our holiday. I had already paid for a stay and was within a week of travelling to the accommodation when suddenly they asked me to complete this security verification process. Because I possess an ounce of common sense, I said no, whereupon they canceled my holiday for me and refunded the amount. Fair enough, do what you need to do. The thing that really peeved me off was that they then blocked my account, refusing me access to the whole site unless I completed the verification procedure. Meaning I copyright l couldn’t contact the owner of the place I was meant to be staying at (someone who I’d already introduced myself to through the messaging system) to apologise for the inconveniance and explain the situation. I can’t even access the website to browse if I log in. AirBNB came across as petty and passive aggressive (“you won’t do as I say so you can’t play with my things.”)

    Luckily I remembered I had phoned the woman at the place I was meant to be visiting so I just called her and arranged to stay there privately. Morons.

    Reply
  3. I am a new Airbnb user and had thought I had found the right place for the right price when I got stuck at the Online Id step. I shared my Google+ and FB acct info with them and I don’t have a LinkedIn acct. They are saying my usage activity is insufficient. What rubbish! I log in to FB at least twice a week and post and comment. My photo and interactions are all there. But now they want me to record and post a video. Like the author says, if the host asks for one, I am willing to provide. Or they can call me on the phone number / email id I’ve provided and check me out. So my brief Airbnb experience has been unsatisfactory and intrusive and I am quitting after having shared my personal info with them, so I am feeling cheated as well. Am hoping a smarter and less controlling competitor comes up soon.

    Reply
  4. I am DONE with airbnb. I’ve used it a few times, as a vacation renter, and while the properties I stayed in were excellent, the user experience of Airbnb is garbage. Today they want access to my Google Contacts. Hell no, that’s none of their damn business and a major invasion to my privacy. But guess what? They won’t let me log in anymore without it. I was in the middle of a negotiation on a property but now I can’t log in. So forget you Airbnb, your demands of my personal information are ridiculous. A competitor will soon pop up and take all their business, especially once the folks advertising their places realize how Airbnb is blocking them from good tenants.

    Reply
  5. I can see people are getting very upset with Airbnb’s verification process. I’m a new airbnb host but long time traveller.
    As a host, because I’m letting out a bedroom in my house while I’m still living here, it suddenly became a lot more important for me to see verifications. I understand that it may seem excessive because the travellers themselves know they are normal people but when I, a single girl, am opening up my home to a stranger, it makes me feel a lot safer.
    To clarify, I’m fine with people who have loads of previous reviews even if they have no ID because essentially someone else has “vetted” them for me – in a way. But new users with no reviews and no verification can be a bit stressful for me. I know its not bulletproof but it really helps just that bit more.

    Reply
  6. I’m a new member on AirBNB (since a month ago) and today I made a reservation on AirBNB. Immediately after that I received a message from my bank that I charged a full sum. Suddenly I’ve got a message from AirBNB that I have to provide them my ID photo to complete the reservation. I’m absolutely refuse to fulfill that demand. I called them by phone – it took 27 (!!!) minutes to get an answer. The call service guy told me that this procedure necessary for every AirBNB member – old & new – because it’s a host’s request. I canceled a reservation and immediately made another one to the same place from my friend’s account (he’s an old member and never been asked to provide ID or links to his social media accounts for verifying). As you can understand already, it wasn’t a problem. So that call service guy lied to me at least twice: 1. it’s not a host’s request, but AirBNB 2. only new members asked to provide an ID photo and links.
    THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT TRUST, BUT LYING TO US. BE CAREFULL!!!!!

    Reply
    • I can see people are getting very upset with Airbnb’s verification process. I’m a new airbnb host but long time traveller.

      As a host, because I’m letting out a bedroom in my house while I’m still living here, it suddenly became a lot more important for me to see verifications. I understand that it may seem excessive because the travellers themselves know they are normal people but when I, a single girl, am opening up my home to a stranger, it makes me feel a lot safer.
      To clarify, I’m fine with people who have loads of previous reviews even if they have no ID because essentially someone else has “vetted” them for me – in a way. But new users with no reviews and no verification can be a bit stressful for me. I know its not bulletproof but it really helps just that bit more.

      Reply
  7. DONE WITH AIR BNB, due to its new identity verification requirements. and inadequate, corporate self-justification speak. Last four digits of social, head scan, choice of sending scan of driver’s license or passport (both can be faked). Answer 4-5 obviously data-mined questions about your life, whom you know (including dead people), where you’ve lived, and, if you choose not to give them your d.l. or p.p., you can make an online video of yourself saying your name, where you’re from, and a bit about yourself to “help your hosts know a little bit about you.” I tired on 4 different machines and the video capture system didn’t work. They also prefer you sign in using FB, LinkedIn or Google(?), which means giving them required access to your contact lists. NOPE! Paid attention to the cyber hacks this year, the government and Last Pass being the biggest either in volume and type of personal info taken or type of institution holding it? Think ABNB’s servers are as secure? NOT big time. As a “nice to have not a must have,” AirBnB has seriously crossed the line in the name of “protecting” its clients and shows no signs of backing down. My guess is this fills a totally unrelated spot in their future game plan. I’m out. If you’re interested in the Last Pass hack, go to Security Now video podcast Ep 512 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujDAYTXTpaM. You’ll get a good idea what it takes to really keep your info safe, sorta, maybe, for awhile.

    Reply
  8. I signed up to Airbnb in May 2015 and booked great places to stay in Paris and Avignon, but when I tried to book in Nice got the verification requirements, which I refused to comply with – not that I even have a Facebook account etc.

    I found Flipkey (owned by TripAdvisor I believe) instead and booked great places in Florence and Venice. We ended up staying in a hotel in Nice which my husband booked before we got onto Flipkey.

    The process of booking through Flipkey is not quite as slick as Airbnb eg different hosts/rental managers have their own payment process etc & it seemed a few of them did not update the calendars if they were booked out already. But I got prompt replies when I emailed requesting dates.

    I’ve read some not so good reviews of Flipkey about customer service but I have to say we had no problems at all. Hope this helps some other unhappy ex Airbnb users.

    Reply
    • Hi Marilyn.

      One of our main complaints with AirBnB before this ID debacle was the fact that so many of their hosts don’t bother to update their calendars. I checked and over the past two years, out of 50 or so hosts that showed the dates we needed as available, only 10 actually had those dates free. When I pointed this out to AirBnB they were definitely unconcerned. And in most of those cases, even after I replied to the host to point out to them that their calendar was out of date, they would not update it. I actually think they get better rates with bookings through the other sites like VRBO and 9Flats and only book through AirBnB when nothing comes through from the other sites.

      Anyway, good to hear you found an alternative. If you haven’t been there before, you’ll love Nice! We go every year and study French at Alliance Francaise. Of course there are many great side trips you can take but our favourite is to go to Antibes for the day. It’s a beautiful little town and the Picasso museum there is really worth seeing.

      Reply
      • Hi Nick, just wanted to say we had a fabulous trip to France and Italy and had absolutely no problems with our accommodation booked through FlipKey. We did love Nice – and also got to spend a day in Antibes. You are right, it is a special place, so charming. I read the continuing vents about Airbnb with much interest. But Airbnb don’t care do they??? Take care

        Reply
  9. I feel sick at the thought that I now have to verify my ID to Airbnb to go on my family holiday. I am absolutely disgusted that they think this is acceptable. I will NEVER use them again and will be telling absolutely everyone I know NEVER to consider using such an awful company who have not right to demand access to my social media/ID/email accounts etc.

    Reply
  10. I have been using ABnB for many years now and have accumulated the usual excellent reviews that good people do. This year when I went to book mine and my partner’s annual vacation accommodation, I was told that I would have to send a photo of my ID to ABnB. According to the ABnB literature, this was because the hosts I was applying to were insisting on it. So I contacted a couple of the hosts that AirBnB was saying were asking me to submit my ID and asked them. They said that they had NOT asked for ID Verification and that they would be happy to rent to us based on our excellent ABnB reputation.
    So in a chat with ABnB support I pointed out this fact. The agent sent me a link to a page that she said would explain why I had to “verify” my ID. That page said the conditions requiring verification were:
    1. short notice booking
    2. host insisting on verification

    So I pointed out to the agent that neither of these conditions applied in my case and that it wasn’t very honest of AirBnB to be trying to blame their hosts for insisting on additional ID. The agent then told me that there was also a “random sampling” of customers who were being required to verify their ID. Ironically, in the process of pointing me to the webpage explaining verification, the agent gave me her full name. If I had told her that she probably wouldn’t be pleased to know she had given me private info.

    I also raised the point that ABnB claims to have brokered 17 million transactions but that the number of bad incidents seemed to be quite small. I had done some research into ABnB incidents and in almost all cases the hosts had said they had a bad feeling about the person they were renting to and/or that the person didn’t have a photo or any reviews. Even if there have been a thousand incidents, which, from the research I did is probably a hundred times the actual umber, that represents a miniscule percentage, in the ten thousandths of a percent range. This doesn’t seem to justify AirBnB suddenly telling its faithful customers (I have been not just a customer but a fan of AirBnB since day 1) who have established themselves as good, reliable, respectful guests, that they must gratuitously surrender yet another piece of their private information. The whole thing strikes me as a clear case of a corporation grabbing private information about its customers, not because it must, but because it can.
    My girlfriend is considering submitting her ID but I will not. I am now looking at AirBnB’s competitors and will be using them instead.

    Reply
    • I have to agree government identification is a step too far.
      Bad enough they have all your other details – I will not be using air bnb either to rent or for rental- they should be boycotted.
      Providing passport data in this manner should not be legal if it is now?
      Anne Marie

      Reply
    • Chose not to book a nice place on airbnb due to the verification process. Having had ID theft, I am not giving information needed by criminals to commit the crime, especially to an organization that gets paid in advance by credit card.

      Reply
      • After deciding that we would not cave in to AirBnB’s unreasonable insistence on poking their noses into the private lives of us and our friends, I began contacting all of the hosts we had stayed with in the past to explain the situation and to ask them if they or anyone they knew could rent us their rooms. Turns out this was a smart move!
        So I have now been able to book accommodation WITHOUT going through AirBnB, either with hosts that we have stayed with before or with friends of theirs who have rooms for rent. I love this because what it means in effect is that the industry that AirBnB has made so popular is now directly helping hosts rent their rooms without having to pay AirBnB’s fees.

        In those cases where we didn’t have any contacts, what I found was that hosts who advertised on AirBnB would often also host on the other vacation rental sites. It’s not always as slick or easy as AirBnB but we found a place to stay in Spain, for example, by booking through 9Flats. The hosts also rent through AirBnB but their rates on 9Flats were lower than on AirBnB!!

        Anyway, for those of you who are balking at giving up your privacy, it does look like there are options. Definitely contact AirBnB hosts you know to ask them if they can help and definitely look at the other rental sites out there.

        Reply
    • That’s ridiculous. I was also chosen to go through the process as part of “random sampling”. I wonder how many other “random samplers” they contacted to go through the procedure.

      Reply
  11. I just had a horrible experience trying to book with Air BNB. The Verification ID thing was new and did not work on the web so my reservation was cancelled. At first I was frustrated for the immediate inconvenience. However, the more I thought about it it seems crazy to provide this information. So I cancelled my traveler account and am waiting for them to call me – I have plenty of feedback. My own listing is with VRBO and I do not (nor does VRBO) require this type of information from travelers. It is excessive and I will not use Air BNB until this goes away.

    Reply
    • My husband attempted to book our first booking with airbnb, which was incredibly frustrating.. got to the verification part and since neither of us have (Facebook/Gmail/LinkedIn) accounts, we opted for the video. But, after he recorded the video, nothing on the screen indicated where he was at in the verification process. Other pages suggested he still needed to complete the verification process but no confirmation his video was ‘being reviewed’ or what else was needed. After spending hours trying to either contact airbnb (impossible–I’m shocked to read feedback on this page suggested people actually reached airbnb), or figure out how to move things forward, he threw his hands up and said it was more complicated than it needs to be. He works in the financial industry and is very sensitive to ID theft, so the idea of providing a photo of his driver’s license or some other documents with personal information is hardly appealing. I tried to book the room and ran into the same roadblocks. As attractive of an idea of staying in a home versus a hotel is, this is not worth the hassle or risk of identity theft!

      Reply
      • Notice how AirBnB asks you to submit the scan of your documents BEFORE they check to see if you have a Facebook page? So even though they won’t be using your ID to verify you, they now have a copy of it saved that they can use however they wish.

        It really is a rotten system that has, in a single stroke, turned AirBnB from a really great service into just another bad corporate citizen.

        Reply
  12. My son just told me about Airbnb so thought I’d check out some places where I want to go to visit him. Well I just wanted to put a place on a “wish list” but needed to register. When they started asking for a copy of my drivers license or passport, I thought this is crazy! Then I’m reading these comments here, and Airbnb wants access to your social media sites. Another crazy! Told my son I won’t be using Airbnb so have to find something else. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Hi Sarah,
      I did upload my driver’s license, then found the next box asked for a link to either Facebook or email, etc. I checked the conditions, and it listed AirBNB could then collect all your ‘metadata’.

      Once they have access to your accounts, what assurance can you have it won’t be accessed for other reasons. Will AirBNB be personally accountable for the honesty of every one of their employees and connected service providers? I don’t think so.

      I do most of my accommodation booking through http://www.stayz.com.au, and have never had a problem with the service. All they require is your payment details, and a lot of the places are privately owned also.

      Reply
  13. Not happy with air bnb I very reluctantly sent a copy of my drivers license, gave details of my facebook a/c , paid in full by credit card only to find this was still not enough!! Oh no they want my email a/c and password!!! To make a booking!!!
    So some unscrupulous person could then send an email to my bank a/c and say I lost or forgot my previous password…The bank would resend password..to email a/c…
    Then they could hack into my bank a/c….DONT THINK SO!!

    Do you think people are stupid!!??? Looked up Airbnb surprise surprise they are set up in America…California

    George Orwell 1984 !! Big Brother….etc…

    Reply
    • Have just read all these comments and half reassured that it was not just me that couldn’t battle with the ID verification thingy, but mostly frustrated that I’ve wasted 2 days trying to find THE Airbnb destination for our holiday only to be thwarted by this “new” verification system. I’ve tried to get my driving licence verified (was definitely never going to try my passport, but now wondering if I should have tried with the driver’s licence!) but having used the webcam x 4 with no satisfactory result, I then tried to contact Airbnb but no means of free texting anywhere. I am beyond cross, especially as Airbnb (great concept, but now disappointingly underperforming) now have access to my Facebook and LinkdIn contacts – my fault, but I was just trying to book what I thought was our dream place. If it doesn’t work by tomorrow, then Airbnb is a lost cause and I will never recommend to anyone again – let alone think of joining as a host! GRRRRRR!

      Reply
  14. I too have just ventured into the airbnb space for the 1st time. I verified my requested booking with a ph no & email address. Because the host was unable to accept the booking within 24 hrs, it was cancelled. Now I am trying to rebook & being asked for passport, drivers licence, links to social media, etc. None of this benefits either myself or the host. If this is the only way that I will be able to use airbnb, then I won’t be. My passport & drivers licence are way too important to be scanned on to an online booking site – dreaming!!!

    Reply
  15. I wish that I had seen this before I spent the day trying to book through airbnb. Just exactly the same thing as previous posts. Too much data mining, humiliation almost, and a worrying authorised payment to cancel. It is clear when you speak to the company that every single call is about the same issue.

    Reply
    • Sorry to hear you had a bad experience Ian!

      We are pulling satisfaction statistics together for an FTC hearing on the issue – fill out our survey and be heard!

      https://trustcloud.com/satisfaction-survey

      Thanks,
      Erik

      Reply
  16. Like so many others here have stated, I will NOT submit to AirBnB’s ridiculous demands just to save a few dollars on an upcoming trip. I see absolutely NO reason why they would need to manage my Gmail contacts except to spam everyone on my contact list. Nu-uh boys, ain’t gonna happen.

    Reply
    • Hi Ed,
      Good point here, why should users trust AirBnB to manage ones contacts simply to access their listings?

      Thanks for sharing,
      Erik

      Reply
  17. I have been using airbnb for many years. I can understand that hosts will want to have the strongest security. As a consequence I expect it will mean fewer people will want to use the service. Sadly I will be one of them. Marie

    Reply
    • Hi Marie,

      Why do you think that a higher level of security will force some users off the platform? What was the specific reason behind your decision to leave?

      -Erik

      Reply
  18. For one reason or another, I can’t see all of this article, it keeps disappearing? Are you utilizing something crazy?

    Reply
  19. Anyone who is stupid enough to send their passport image or driver’s licence to a commercial enterprise like this gets what they deserve. I wish these people would just disappear. The world was much better when these things were done over Craigslist. It worked, and people could sus each other out the normal, old fashioned way. Criminals will have no difficulty getting around any chaff the likes of Airbnb can throw in their way. And as for the rest of us, good luck to anyone who leaves their passport on a commercial website like this. Talk about the ultimate source for identity theft!

    Reply
    • Good point, James, its more important than ever to guard your digital identity!

      Reply
      • I would just add that I tried using the AirBnb app. I signed on using Google+ and it wanted access to two parts of my digital life. First it wanted access to my Google Drive folder. What on earth do they need access to Google Drive for? I have valuable work and personal documents in there. It would probably be a breach of my duty to others to give them access, but in any case why on earth would I do this? More importantly, why on earth are they asking for this? The second thing they were demanding was not only access to, but the ability also to manage, my Google contacts? Are these guys insane? I have never seen such an egregious example of an attempt to breach privacy on a flimsy pretext as this. If I had more time I think it might be worth running a campaign against them, but I have a life to live. Time to “unfriend” Airbnb I feel :)

        Reply
        • If you just try to log in as your google email address even if you previously logged in using the google+ link, it will let you after resetting your password.

          Reply
  20. Feels to me as if AirBnB is geared for towards kids, not grownups. If I was a highschool student with a thousand facebook friends it would be smooth sailing. Or if I had a linked in account with hundreds of meaningless ‘links’…

    But because I am a grown up, who thinks my email and phone number and credit card should be enough to rent a room (it has been for the last 40 years of my life) and because I am not interested in providing them my damned passport I can no longer use AirBnB.

    AirBnB is for the birds.

    Reply
  21. Currently in the process of booking through abnb for the first time. Have paid £900 for three nights at a house which will be central to funeral we are organising. The online verification is a nightmare. I denied their FB option the right to access my friends which just led me up numerous blind alleys. In the end, had to contact their customer ‘experience’ team (found the number through Google as its hidden on the site if it’s there at all) They blamed Safari, but the process didn’t work on Chrome or Firefox.
    They didn’t call back when promised and finally – having uploaded a video – they have phoned to tell me I’m verified, but my booking still isn’t confirmed nearly 24 hours on…

    I hope their hosts know they are losing valuable bookings because of a system which although perfectly sensible in theory is a disaster in practice. And quite a nasty one…

    Reply
    • Would love it if you would let us know the phone number of that “Customer Experience Team”. I had a great stay at an AirBnb place in San Francisco (reserved without uploading personal/private material)and now I can’t even write a review without all this rubbish about documentation.

      Reply
      • When did you use airbnb in S.F.? I was going to use them for travel in July but needed to add all that personal info so got out of there real quick. Decided that was not a good thing and started looking at other vacation rentals that don’t ask for that info.

        Reply
        • stayed July 1 – July 6 2015.

          I must have, somehow, slipped under the wire on the verification bs. I believe that, right after paying and getting confirmation and printing out the confirmation page I myself actually clicked on Verify (without knowing what it was). Maybe not…maybe it just came up as an opened page. Anyway now the page ALWAYS comes up.

          Reply
  22. Am spending some considerable time waiting for the ID verification to upload…Why so long? Also, there is NO mention of this at the beginning of the process… We have booked previously with AirBnB and not had to go through this. Now I am wondering if I should cancel my booking after reading other people’s comments here… and still waiting… I have SO much stuff out there on who I am that this extra stuff is ridiculous!!!

    Reply
  23. They are even lying now that the host is requesting verification. I asked my host why do you need my ID she said she doesn’t it’s probably airbnb thing, she never requested that.

    Reply
  24. I’ve been using Airbnb for several years and have now decided now to stop. Like everyone else here, I got asked for verification and feel uncomfortable giving over my photo ID only to get told like so many others have to scan bills, make a video, rub your tummy while patting your head, etc! Come on, you are just a booking site (like thousands of other booking sites who don’t insist on gathering such sensitive personal information). Only a couple of days ago I booked 2 apartments in Switzerland with Airbnb with no problem. Then I went to book an apartment in Copenhagen and all of a sudden this message comes up to verify.
    Well sorry Airbnb, you are just a booking site and without customers you have no business! I have excellent feedback as a guest and these are the type of clients you wish to lose? Yep, there’s a smart business plan. I live in the UK and there are many self catering sites available for the Eurozone and beyond and btw, you are not the biggest nor the best over here.

    I use(d) your service on average once every 2 months…. well bye bye.

    Reply
  25. I found a wonderful apartment in Nice, France for my wife and I but was completely foiled by airbnb’s ridiculous self verification software. Took a photo of my passport using ipad and it could not be accepted. Took a better photo using Nikon camera and that wasn’t acceptable. Overall spent 4 days messing about and talking to the owners of the accommodation who held the booking for 7 days but in the end just got too frustrated and found another place on another site.
    Lesson: don’t have anything to do with airbnb!!!

    Reply
    • What other booking site did you use? I am also an past airbnb user and want to find an alternative. Don’t feel comfortable submitting to this required service. Would like to book soon, so if you don’t mind providing the link? Thank you so much from TEXAS!

      Reply
  26. I do not use my gmail account, it was only established for apps on my android device, I do not have a facebook account and am not a member of LinkedIn. I booked AIrbnb accommodation before April, now have 3 messages I cannot read as I cannot verify my identity as my gmail account has not had enough activity. How do I circumvent the issue?

    Reply
  27. My problem is also with the verification system.
    My bookings were held while I tried to complete the process but the process was fraught with problems.
    Once I had provided my passport (and I think this is a lot to ask) and my phone number, I was asked to upload a photo. (Why? It’s on my passport) The choice was this or a webcam shot.
    However, while the buttons for the two options remain on screen, only one appears active.
    I have no choice but to use the webcam.
    However, I can’t. I live in Saudi Arabia and everyone knows the connectivity problems, censorship and cultural restrictions of this country.
    Even if I could connect to a web came, who is to say that the face on the screen is mine..or that it is me representing myself?
    Anyway, it seems I can’t complete either of my bookings.
    I have spent days trying to complete the process to make Air BnB happy. It has been a huge frustration and a complete waste of time.
    I have used AirBnB successfully in the past but that is where our association is going to remain…in the past. Unless they get real about how much ID verification makes a potential guest a ‘safe’ prospect.

    Reply
    • Yes, the Cross- Over risk in one that seems obvious to many here but hasn’t been solved (we’re working on it)

      Reply
  28. I was extremely upset and unhappy about having to jump through the hoops airbnb now requires to make a booking. I felt as if I had done something wrong in having to send a photo of myself, my passport, do a short video and have my phone number vetted. I felt invaded, and now that they have my information, I don’t trust that it won’t be released to an insecure site. I mean, are they who they say they are??? All in all an unsavoury experience.

    Reply
  29. perhaps airbandb are collecting this information as another lucrative business line, namely the sale of personal data. Anyone dumb enough to give them access to their Facebook and Linkedln contact list deserve what they will get – increased junk mail, more pfishing scams mail and ID theft.
    Am I being a tad cynical or just realistic?

    Reply
  30. I wouldn’t share a photo of my passport on the web due to security reasons and absolutely agree with the above article. I’m facing bog problems with airbnb in booking a place right now due to their new requirement for ID verification. Airbnb has the data of my credit card. My bank is checking my identity non stop. Why airbnb can’t use credit card info as verification tool and why even the hosts told me that they do not need this verification airbnb still insist to upload a scanned copy of my passport? Definitely most probably I wouldn’t book through airbnb of there is no other option for verification and wouldn’t recommend it.

    Reply
  31. I booked an airbnb for 2 of my students on a trip for 3 months. Took my first month payment and seemed things were fine. Went to log in to pay for month2 and it won’t let me without verificaiton — for which it is now asking for a photo my driver license. Not really comfortable with that but students are already there. But my comfort did not did not really matter, thier software won’t take the license photo and provides no error messages why.

    Bait and switch .. I won’t be using their services again.

    Reply
  32. I booked a unit through Airbnb two weeks ago for close to $2,000. There wasn’t any issue with payment, setting up profile, etc. Yesterday I attempted to book just 1 night at another location for this same vacation, I emailed the host, all was fine and they said they were going to pre approve me. Long story short Airbnb suddenly asked for ID Verification. I feel that they should have said this upfront and saved me hours of searching for another unit. I also feel that their having my email address, phone number and credit card information is more than suficient. I couldn’t even figure out how to do what they were asking as I am not that technical. I wrote to them and they said that they approved the first booking because I “fell through the cracks”. Amazing! End result, I don’t have the unit and the Host doesn’t have the rental and Airbnb still doesn’t have my facebook , etc. Just simply unbelievable and frustrating.

    Reply
  33. If I have to give up that much info, then I expect to pay a lot less! I also do not see why teachers and other professionals with FBI checks, should have to give up so much personal info. It makes the whe process suspicious and unsavory

    Reply
  34. I am currently experiencing this problem with airbnb. They will not allow my request for a reservation to continue without offline verification. I am willing to send a copy of my drivers license (grudgingly) because it is a limited, public document. They don’t stop there, however. They demand to be linked to some social media account – in my case google. They want total access to it! They state up front that they want to be able to have access to and manage my contacts!! There is absolutely no reason they need access to my contacts, nor, for that matter, access customers’ accounts period. If they have a license, photos, birth dates, reviews, etc they are just pushing this to the nonsensical when they demand the right to gather detailed information on you and everyone you are in contact with! Down with airbnb!

    Reply
  35. Thinking of taking the family to Southern California over Spring Break. Looked at some very attractive places, interested in one, sent a query to the host on a question about parking.
    However, that process stopped cold when I was asked for my driver’s license or passport.
    I’ve been in intelligence and defense for several decades, have had clearances, and wouldn’t THINK of uploading that information to some third party, no matter what they warrant is their 21st Century protective capabilities. In this cyber-insecure environment, with ardent hackers out there? Under no circumstances.
    If Airbnb can provide some lesser form of ‘one-way kimono-opening’, I’d be interested, but not as it stands.

    Reply
  36. this verification is a complete mess!!!
    I’m not on facebook or linkedin (gmail Account not active enough?)
    so verification is imposible

    Reply
  37. What a shame! There are property listings that look perfect for our upcoming trip to the UK but there is no way I would upload a copy of my passport or ID card. No way. Airbnb loses here because my family often rents flats and houses from individuals.

    Reply
    • There are many other ways of ID verification, perhaps AirBnB will test other solutions.

      Reply
  38. Lost a rental I wanted because I would not send passport page.this Airbnb vérification does not garantee anything!!!

    Reply
  39. This is the first time I’m using Airbnb and I just saw the information they’re requiring for “verification” of my identity. Although the rental looks perfect for me, I am unwilling to give up my passport or driver’s license ID. Therefore, I may have to pass on this rental if the owner doesn’t agree to an alternate method of verification.

    Reply
  40. What a stupid policy. Your credit card number IS VERIFICATION!!!!! Sorry, idiots! Not everyone has a Facebook account. I guess they don’t want my money.

    Reply
  41. No, I wouldn’t trust them with my passport or driving licence. I did try to upload my driving licence but it didn’t work and on reflection I am glad. Owners of Bed & Breakfast establishments in the UK have managed to be very safe for decades and decades without prospective guests having to submit their ID for a booking to be accepted. Air BnB already has enough information – credit card verification with address etc.

    My main concern is the potential security risk over the internet of my ID – who knows where my ID could end up!

    My second concern is why are guests being asked for this information and hosts are not?? !! It is a two way street. We, as guests, are taking the same risk as the host. Arguably guests are taking more of a risk than hosts, because if a guest ended up booking a room in the home of a psychopath or religious zealot or any other weirdo, (or come to that an ID thief) just remember the hosts are in familiar territory and you, the guest are not!

    Reply
  42. Honestly, no point giving up your ID to air bnb. They are not promising that they will not use your details or handover it to third party. Despite my requests to show me privacy statements and how will they deal with my ID, they have failed to give me any satisfactory response. So better find places to stay somewhere else

    Reply
  43. this is food for thought. i must admit i was a bit shocked to be asked for the verification data when i first tried to book a room with airbnb, especially as I have a listing with them. However, I uploaded a scan of my passport without much thought. I then offered up my facebook account only to be rejected! as a middle aged mum who posts lots of mundane things to a community of over 100 similar middle aged mums this came as a bit of a shock, but airbnb were adamant they then needed a video, plus at one stage they asked for a scan of a utility bill. I was trying to find somewhere to stay at short notice in London on a night that seemed exceptionally busy for hotels – 86% occupancy, with the remaining beds at the top end of the price scale. I found a property, made contact with the owner, sorted it all out only to spend a very frustrating few hours trying and failing to jump through the airbnb hoop. In the end i gave up, apologised to the property owner who was also trying to help me at short notice while he was away from home, and went to bed. But I cannot believe they are trying to weed out people like me! And with hindsight i am very uncomfortable that there is now a scan of my passport floating in cyberspace.

    Reply
  44. As a host I have had experience of good potential guests finding the verification procedure over-complicated. On more than one occasion potential guests have found ways of contacting me to explain the delay in verification. Older potential guests find the verification process over-complicated and (rightly or wrongly) potentially invasive. As I host I do wish to see a good quality photograph of my potential guest. Without it I am disinclined to accept.

    As a guest I am prepared to provide a photograph, my credit card details and (as I am a host) allow access to the personal details on my listing.

    Reply
    • Very trandsparent and sets the bar for guests. Kudos!

      Reply
  45. We were shocked and angered to find this ID requirement when trying to book Airbnb in London. We have a record of being good guests from the many places we have stayed, we supply our debit card details which is ID. I am sure as hell not going to risk identity theft by placing my driving licence or passport for Airbnb to possess. Equally angered that to prove my existence I am asked to provide Facebook and/or Linkedin. I do have both as it happens but do not use either very much, (asked by a professional colleague to be on Linkedin and Facebook to see my daughter’s photos more easily.) The modern version of ‘Cogito ergo sum’ is now ‘Habeat Facebook ergo sum’. Airbnb hosts are at no more risk than ‘normal’ Bed and Breakfast owners. If I want to stay at a B and B which I have seen advertised or reviewed or is in a B and B book, I phone, arrange the stay, leave my card details and then arrive in their home at the appointed time. Exactly the same level of knowledge between the B+B owner and client exists in this transaction. The only explanation for this Airbnb policy is data mining, sheer greed. Well, they may well have killed the Golden Goose.

    Reply
    • Yes, this is what we call cross over risk. People that behave well on one platform do not get credit when visiting another, generally, becuase the platforms keep their data in one silo (ergo, our proposed solution with TrustCloud).
      Likewise, bad actors (such as kickstarter scammers) have notoriously moved over to AirBnB and had a clean record.

      Reply
  46. It’s overreaching and a terrible privacy intrusion. I like Airbnb and have used it sucessfully but this is too much! I won’t give that much access and don’t think it will really help their security.

    Reply
  47. I am not comfortable with the verified id process. to access paypal I must prove my identity through my bank security process. That should be enough verification that I am who I say that I am. Please make this verification simpler and less invasive

    Reply
  48. I have spent 35 years in the computer software business and I know from much experience that the best way to protect your identity and private data is to simply keep it private. There are times when you must divulge data about your self (credit apps, medical, etc.). But there is no reason at all to divulge it to some company who is trying to sell you their service, like airbnb.

    What’s worse is the very poor programming design of the Verify process. Examples; not everybody has a social media account (which is probably the worst possible exposure for your personal data),. The design of the Verify process is terrible; it does not have continuity from function to function, does not give the user feedback, does not acknowledge input and acceptance, some parts can not be completed without first doing other parts first but this is not explained, and it’s all very confusing and often seems to be of no purpose. Inquiries and emails to tech support either go unanswered or else are replied to with one-size-fits-all canned responses which are totally unrelated to the inquiry (giving the impression that no one takes time to read or understand the point of the inquiry).

    And as if all this isn’t frustrating enough, just try get help by talking to a knowledgeable person on the telephone! With service like this you have to wonder if airbnb won’t someday go the way of so many has-beens in our industry. One might also reasonably ask what will happen to my charged in advance deposit if airbnb decides to roll over and stick its feet in the air.

    Reply
  49. no, i don’t feel confidence to give my photo id online because there’s so many identity theft .
    i am a host myself. i want to disable my post because someone wants to rent my place but i can’t disable now because it forces me to provide ids before i can proceed.

    Reply
  50. Airbnb is a very dangerous organization. Not only they act as “dictators”, but they use their power to force people to provide private information, which they don’t need.
    I have been an Airbnb hoster for 3 years now, and I am disappointed with their business philosophy.
    Anyone who respects values like Freedom will not work with them.
    I have closed my account, although I had lots of great comments.
    Too bad for me, but too bad for Airbnb too.
    I will not stop criticizing this website until they start having decent business manners.
    And for the first time of my life, I hope governments around the world will close this company who has more chance to grow in dictatures than in democracies.

    Reply
    • Yes, AirBnB has had it’s struggles with various government authorities. It’s a new way of doing business, like Uber etc. That threatens some people. Thanks for your comments

      Reply
    • It’s really interesting. When you complain they come back with, oh – what a shame you are leaving “our community”. As if you have been exiled from the land of the chosen or some such thing. What gumph. They are no more a community than I am an oyster. But this is highly manipulative language that will make many feel unsure about their (entirely appropriate) precautionary instincts. And let’s consider what kind of a community they would be if their presumption were true. It would be a “community” which is managed solely for the commercial gain of a computer based facilitator. That facilitator would have arrogated to itself the right (which it exercises liberally) to censor all communications (even the word “Google” got removed from a message I sent). They would be a “community” in which the participants have no rights at all in terms of organisation or governance. If you do ever see a community like that – run away, as quickly as your little legs will carry you.

      Reply
      • Hi James!

        Wow! Excellent points! What kind of community is it that is moderated and controlled entirely for the sake of preserving the business, rather than fostering trust between actors and allowing them to communicate freely? I also find the elimination of keywords and contact information from messages between users to be downright creepy.

        Thanks for your comments,
        Erik

        Reply
  51. Totally agree – they’ve screwed up. Here’s what happened to me.
    I requested a reservation, the host accepted the booking and Airbnb took the money from my card.
    Next time I logged in to check the details the system demanded Government Id and wouldn’t let me access my booking.
    When I queried it with Airbnb they said “do what the system says”. That was never gonna happen. So I queried it again and they just cancelled my booking! Unbelievable.
    That’s it with Airbnb – all over.

    Reply
  52. There is NO WAY!!! One less site to look for rentals.

    Reply
  53. I do not like putting personal data on the web. It won’t be too long before someone thinks there is useful information there and beats airbnb security. Then what?
    I do not have or want Facebook entries.

    Reply
  54. Actually Airbnb keeps asking for more identity after having your credit card with its security through address verification. Even with your drivers license, the access to facebook is not even enough, it says not enough activity-must mean if you dont tell facebook everything, its not enough for them. Seasoned users says that after all that, now they want your passport. Its too bad that renters will not get the business from this website model, which seems to really be just data mining.

    Reply
  55. I have sent airbnb a copy of my passport and feel really stupid now for doing so. I am terribly worried that this Information will be used for other reasons and could kick myself for being so naive!! But HOW can I revidate this??

    Reply
  56. We have just booked an apartment in NYC for 2 nights and after paying online with a Visa card we have been asked to provide ID in the form of a scanned drivers licence. We worked out how to do this and completed the request and thought the booking could be successfully processed but we now find that we are required to produce a video online as an extra form of i.d. – from our fairly limited knowledge we do not think we have the necessary software to take a video.
    We now have to cancel the booking, find out how to complete the proof of ID request before starting again. I’m not sure that we have the time or the energy! All very frustrating and disappointing!

    Reply
  57. I think something similar happened to me. The posts did not seem real. I’ll follow up with the real person when I meet her in a few days. Something very odd about the way this company is behaving. Why are they soooooooo keen to get all of this information. It all seems highly artificial.

    Reply

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  1. TrustCloud — TaskRabbit: How do we scale trust? - […] that works when you move from one platform to another. For example, AirBnB  received a major backlash when they …
  2. TrustCloud — Does anonymity have a place in the sharing economy? - […] people to verify their identity to use the website in the name of security, and it has been met …

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