On June 22nd, we learned that the home of one of our San Francisco hosts was vandalized by an Airbnb guest. We were devastated when we received this news. With a single booking, one person’s malicious actions victimized our host and undermined what had been – for 2 million nights – a case study demonstrating that people are fundamentally good.
As soon as we learned what had taken place, our first concern was to make sure our host was safe. We have been in close contact with her ever since, and have worked with the authorities to help find a resolution. Because Airbnb facilitates the reservation details and payment information, we were in a unique position to assist with the investigation. While we are not at liberty to discuss the details during the investigation, we understand that with our help, a suspect is now in custody, and our information will now become important evidence.
Once our host’s safety was secured, our attention moved to further strengthening our system.
Trust and safety are our highest priorities. From the very beginning, we have developed Airbnb with safety and security as the most important innovations in our product roadmap. These features include:
- Private messaging that lets users learn about each other prior to booking, without revealing private information
- Reservation system that allows hosts to accept or decline guests, giving them complete control over who books their space
- Transaction-based reviews that help users build trusted online reputations
- Over 50 million Social Connections that show mutual friends through users’ Facebook social graph
- Secure and reliable payment system that holds payment for 24 hours and facilitates security deposits
- Algorithms that identify suspicious behavior
- Flagging capabilities on every user profile, property listing, and message thread
- Verified, professional photographs of Airbnb listings
As a response to this incident, we have begun development on improvements to increase the safety of Airbnb, including:
- Doubling the size of our customer support staff
- Creating a dedicated Trust & Safety department
- Creating a Host Education Center where hosts can find safety tips
- Designing enhanced tools to verify user profiles
- Facilitating richer communication between guests and hosts before booking, including experimentation with VOIP and video chat
- Offering insurance options to hosts
We are upset that this happened but believe that our platform and staff were able to make a positive contribution to this unfortunate case. The host herself acknowledged our efforts in a blog post when she said:
“I would be remiss if I didn’t pause here to emphasize that the customer service team at airbnb.com has been wonderful, giving this crime their full attention. They have called often, expressing empathy, support, and genuine concern for my welfare. They have offered to help me recover emotionally and financially, and are working with SFPD to track down these criminals.”
While we’re glad that our host feels this way, we are committed to improving upon our product with safety as the cornerstone of the Airbnb marketplace. We are fully committed to the vision that one day you will be able to travel to any city or town around the world, and with the click of a button, access local people and cultures safely and easily. We will work tirelessly alongside our community until that day is fully realized.