You've been asking a lot about guest profile photos, and Airbnb has been working on new policies to address your concerns. Here is an update from Airbnb:
Today, we’re announcing some changes we will be making to the way we display guest profile photos.
Moving forward, rather than displaying a potential guest’s profile photo before the booking is accepted, hosts will receive a guest’s photo in the booking process only after they’ve accepted the booking request. Airbnb does not require all guests to provide a photo. Instead, we’ll be giving hosts the option to ask their guests to provide a profile photo, which will only be presented to hosts after they accept the booking. We have discussed some of this work in the past and we want you to know more about the changes we will be making in the coming months.
We have participated in a number of conversations with hosts and guests regarding this topic. We have listened to our community, and while most guests provide a photo, some guests told us they don’t want to share a picture of themselves when booking. We also recognize that concerns have been raised about the potential for photos to be misused in a way that violates our nondiscrimination policy.
At the same time, hosts have told us that they value profile photos because they can help hosts and guests get to know one another before a trip begins and help hosts recognize guests when they check in. Additionally, we’ve seen how photos can be a useful tool for enhancing trust and promoting community.
We want to balance these concerns. Airbnb does not require guests to provide a profile photo when booking a listing and, as we discussed earlier this summer with our hosts, we will be implementing a series of changes in the months ahead:
If a host cancels a reservation after they see a guest’s photo, the guest will have an easy way to contact Airbnb and report any concerns about potential discrimination by the host in violation of our nondiscrimination policy and Community Commitment. If any guest believes he or she has been discriminated against and notifies our team, we’ll immediately help them book an alternative listing consistent with our Open Doors Policy, investigate the report, and take appropriate action. Any host who violates our nondiscrimination policy may be permanently banned from using Airbnb.
This announcement follows the commitment we made in 2016 to evaluate how we display guest profile photos in the booking process. As we implement these changes in the coming months, we hope you’ll share your feedback with us so we can continue to make thoughtful changes that make the Airbnb community a place where everyone can belong.
Hi all, thankyou admin for this update regarding this proposal.
I recognise this as an initiative that had its origins in concerns over discrimination. Notably it is stated that if a host cancels after seeing a profile picture, and this triggers a concern that a person may sense they have been wrongly and unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of appearance, guests will be made aware that they can report their concern and have it investigated and acted on.
Profile photos providing a tool to facilitate discrimination and being linked to concerns that they will enable and increase discrimination are in my view somewhat overblown and certainly Airbnb's energy and engineering talent is being misdirected in attempting to implement this potential solution to a percieved problem. After all there currently are immediate and sound penalties for cancellations and also there are disincentives to repeatedly declining booking requests, regardless of whether the refusal was soundly or unreasonably made. The pressure and reward is in consistently accepting bookings.
This two stage opt-out is only adding complexity to the guest sign up and account details. On a number of occasions I have had guests almost walk away from proceeding with booking at my listing and giving up on Airbnb travel because they found the sign up confusing. Thankfully I was able to support them through to a successful complete account and a successful booking for me, and the hope is that they will go on to continue travelling with other Airbnb hosts in future.
The much bigger concern with profile photos is safety and privacy on the internet and minimising the threat of privacy and security breaches. Published photos are easily copied and misused. That's the biggest risk, threat and offence that can occur to either guests and hosts.
Seeing who you are "talking" to is a normal human desire and revealing yourself is good manners. The only 2 people who need to see each other are guest and hosts. So instead of the current proposal why not just give guests and hosts the opportunity to upload a primary photo for web display on the public profile and guest review proviles etc, and a secondary photo which is released to the host or guest when an enquiry or booking is being made or accepted.
There are lots of reasons why a host who needs to maintain privacy for reasons of personal protection or security, should be confident knowing that they cannot be searched out via a publicly available picture.
So public photos for everyone, make your own choice of photo, and then a privately auto exchanged passport style portrait photo when transacting.
I typed this on my phone.
Please excuse typing errors and any lack of punctuation.
Best regards. Christine
"As we implement these changes over the coming months"
At this time no precise date has been given for the cutover to this proposal regarding profile pictures.
Over the coming months...
In regards to my earlier post re public photos; I am suggesting that public photos can be anything reasonable to represent the account.
Facial images can be secondary photos, which are only exchanged between hosts and guests. The reveal can be automated. Maybe the photo reveal can be triggered after 48 hrs when the booking is fully confirmed.
So, basicly nothing will change. Even now every host can ask his guest to upload his profile photo.
Now you just added another way out for guests . I see it coming... guest books and upload his picture, during the conversation host becomes unconfortable with this guest for whatever reason and wants to cancel. Guest complains it's discrimination based on his profile picture. Host is punished.
I recently read a story here on CC about a guests who booked and arrived. Host was surprised because profile photo showed caucasion female, reviews were about a male and the couple who arrived were african american. Host become suspicious and as turned out this female account was hacked so the host kicked the guests out.
If their profile didn't have a profile picture host wouldn't suspect anything.
In the meantime we are waiting for our guests in front of the building on the busy street and have no idea how they look like. Last month I've seen a couple of strangers looking arround and asked them if they are looking for Airbnb. They smiled and said Yes. I said "Great, I am Branka, I am your Airbnb host, follow me.." I took them to my apartment and they looked arround and said "... but this is not what we have booked !". It turned out they booked another apartment in the same building, but not mine. How could I possibly know, my guest's profile photo was a flower !
There are at least 15 rooms and apartments in just 4 buildings arround ours, and many many others in our street. You have no idea how many times I approached wrong people and asked "Are you X and Y , my Airbnb guests?" and they said "No". I felt so stupid :D
We should know who are we waiting for.
Yes, hotels do not ask for a photo when guest books. But there the guest arrives, goes to the front desk and introduce themselves. The receptionist then ask him his photo ID , check his reservation and give him the key.
Airbnb doesn't work that way. I get the reservation from initials, just a first name, nicknames or names written in Chinese letters followed by pictures of kittens, flowers etc... and I meet them on the street.
Full name and profile picture should be mandatory for everyone who wants to book a private home. If someone doesn't want to do it then he can book a hotel .
What kind of man-idea is this?
While I respect the intention, it could be a deal breaker for hosting for me. I'm a single female who hosts in guest rooms in my own home. While I'm not paranoid at all, and have have regularly been accused of being TOO trusting, there are some common sense safety measures I expect.
Being able to know ahead who will be in my home with me and everything I own is just common sense. If people aren't open enough to share their photo, they shouldn't be staying in my place. A few hundred completed stays from all demographics from around the world is pretty solid evidence that I don't exclude guests based on race, so taking the precaution of being able to know who will be in my home before accepting them is unfair punishment. I will seriously reconsider hosting at all when this comes into force.
Totally agree. I want to see a proper photo showing the guest, and maybe their family, so I know they are a decent person. I must be allowed to judge for myself, and have the right to refuse a booking if they don’t suit me. If I’m too fussy I won’t get any bookings. We often make a decision to accept based on a photo, as well as their reason for travelling.
Carli in Singapore,
I wholeheartedly second your opinion; especially the points you make about "knowing ahead who will be in my home with me and everything I own" AND "completed stays from all demographics from around the world is pretty solid evidence that I don't exclude guests based on race".
Allen [Superhost of "Santuary on School Avenue" in Brownsville, Oregon, USA]
Precisely! I have never discriminated against any guests and have had guests of all races and religions in my home. I did, however, have a guest leave my home when a man of dark pigment check-in and AirBnB issued a full refund before checking with me as to the circumstances of the guest's sudden "discomfort". I have since learned of at least 2 other hosts with similar stories.
I also remember the story of the Asian woman turned away from a Bear Mountain accomodation, after traveling in a snow storm. While I don't condone any form of racism, wouldn't a guest be better off not having a reservation accepted than to have a host turn them away at the door?
I feel that we, single women, who have done nothing wrong, are having our safety jeopardized by a policy that will actually not address the true culprits. If people are not comfortable with people of color, they are not going to suddenly welcome in their doors just because AirBnB no longer requires pictures. AirBnB is putting out a "solution" for appearances that does not really solve the problem. Meanwhile, it may well mean costing me, and others, who have been loyal hosts, our businesses.
Currently, free platforms such as Couchsurfing even have photos that are thoroughly verified along with address verification. I don't think asking for a photo is too much to ask.
Carli - I am with you on this. I too am a single female hosting in my home, and there is no way I'm going to allow someone to book without a verified photo. I guess this means taking down instant booking and requiring both me and my potential guests to go through the hassle of communicating back/forth before booking. I like being able to the balance of ease of frictionless transactions while still giving me some control, but this new policy will make it more difficult for everyone except absentee hosts who could care less who stays in their home.
Seriously, Airbnb - remember that without hosts you are nothing. In our metro area, and many others, local laws are prohibiting new Airbnb rentals unless they're owner-occupied. That's an immediate constraint on Airbnb's ability to scale. And if they force hosts out through these ridiculous policies, they restrict their growth even more.
Carli, your comment is somewhat confusing. As I understand it, you will get to see a photo of any future guest once the booking has been confirmed. I have to ask this question, to make your comment relevant. What content with a profile pic would make you reject a booking? Do you only want female guests?
I agree with Carli 100%. I too am a single female host - a Superhost, living in the bush up in cottage country, renting rooms in my own personal chalet where I live full-time and year-round ... and my nearest neighbours are over a kilometre away. This is going to be a deal breaker for me too. Like Carli, I've hosted people from all around the world, of every color and faith. I don't discriminate, but I am painfully aware of how many criminals are running around free in my country, in my province, in my nearest cities. One of our top Canadian Military Brass, Colonel Russell Williams - flying around the world as a dignitary with our last Prime Minister, Stephen Harper - was convicted of breaking in and raping women just over an hour from my place. Airbnb repeatedly tells it's hosts that safety and security are paramount ... but truthfully and realistically, it appears to be no more than lip service. It is absolutely outrageous that a host, bringing complete strangers from the internet into their home where all their personal belongings and private data reside (and especially for those hosts who live in remote and secluded locations), cannot first see a profile picture of the prospective guest to make sure their picture is not of someone they've seen wanted on the news for some crime. Airbnb is showing absolutely ZERO REGARD, ZERO CARE OR CONCERN FOR THE SAFETY AND SECURITY OF THEIR HOSTS WITH THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THIS KEEPING THE GUEST'S IDENTITY A VIRTUAL SECRET UNTIL AFTER THEY HAVE BOOKED. This will DEFINITELY not work for me.
Unfair discrimination is very hurtful and it disadvantages individuals and communities of people.
However, in the short term, safety for hosts and guests is a priority.
Being willing to have a profile photo presented when you request information or accomodation is not an unreasonable ask.
Hosts are requesting that Airbnb maintain the tools and resources which have allowed them to manage their personal safety.
For guests to be open and transparent to Airbnb and to their hosts is integral to increasing safety for both parties.
Without having fully considered the bigger picture, history of a number of home based accommodation services, and the potential for things to go wrong, its possible that a well intentioned response may lead to even more critical incidents.
Speaking from experience, out of nearly 400 guests in my own home, only one visitor's weird behaviour hinted at inappropriate desires towards me. I ignored all of what I observed towards me, and increased the physical barriers in my residence, during his stay.
He later commented on my professionalism towards him, and my lack of response / interest to his hints änd gestures, when writing to me in his post checkout message,I sudpect he was fishing for information.
My response to him was to confirm that Yes, I always conducted myself in a professional mannner towards my guests, and definitely option 2 was also correct, as I had no interest in providing services of a more personal and private nature to him.
I reminded him (in s private msg) that as a business traveler he represented his employer andif his conduct were known to his employer, it could affect the opportunity for other employees to use Airbnb for travel.
He subsequently changed his profile picture his gender and his name.
His original profile picture was correct. Social media still sends links to his picture its an unpleasant reminder of when I questioned whether I could continue hosting and I felt upset that this individual has made me feel uncomfortable ans less safe.
I am a grown up, and I accept responsibility for taking steps to reduce risk and ensure my personal safety. And that includes using all the tools svailable.
Please think carefully sbout what is in everyone's best interest before reducing the ability of Airbnb hosts to see their guests.
Despite reporting this matter and flagging the profile, I recieved no official response to acknowledge my concern.
It bothered me for quite some time as I always followed the advice of Airbnb regarding screening guests, and having a conversation, to ensure compatible expectations needs snd facilities, plus I do background checks if required to verify that an ID is Genuine.
Once the safety of hosts or guests is compromised then people's lives are at greater risk. There may be no turning back, and we could be looking at a failed experiment.
Please be very careful about what will preserve and protect the sfaety of Airbnb hosts and guests into the long term. You have often advocated that Airbnb is a wonderful resource which has been embraced by women internationally, and has lead to increased economic independence for so many individuals. Please don't lose sight of how these two issues connect. It's not a peripheral issue.
Thanks for all the good you do.... but.....
Best regards Christine.
I agree with Christine 100%. I too have had the uneasy and disturbing experience of a guest booking my place with false identification. Once the guests had gotten a bit of a wine buzz, the girl that booked my place went upstairs, and her partner remained drinking on the back deck - then told me her real name was not the name she used to book my place with. I immediately called airbnb to see how and why people were able to open accounts with false identification and misrepresent who they are to thier hosts. I was beside myself considering the facts that these people have stayed in my home, know where all the entrances and locks are, know the layout of the house, know the property from the back bush side, know who I am, where I live by myself so remotely, where my bedroom is located in the house ... and I have no idea who these people are, or why they booked my place with fake I.D. Initially, Airbnb told me they would look into it, and get back to me with the proper name and identity of my guest. After dozens of calls over several weeks trying to get an answer from them, they finally told me they would not be revealing her identification due to privacy issues! That is un-freakin-belivable! They've been in my home, they know who I am, they are now familiar with the entire layout of my home and property, and they know how isolated I live ... but I have no idea who these people really are, or what they're up to with their deceptiions. How can I possibly believe Airbnb when they tell me that safety and security of their hosts are paramount? Obviously, it's all about their commission, and ensuring the safety and security of their hosts is merely a lip-service tag line. Now that they are virtually planning on keeping the identity of the guest a secret until AFTER they've booked, is absolutely outrageous, and only goes to prove further how little disregard Airbnb really has for the safety and security of it's hosts ... and in my case - Superhost. This will be a deal-breaker for me as I have no intention of booking a guest first, then figuring out if they're on the America's Most Wanted list!
My God this makes me cross. I've got 250 reviews, been a SH for 14 quarters on the trot and only declined guests who wanted to bring babies, pets or something else that would have violated my house rules. I have had guests from every continent, of every colour and every creed with a minimal number of issues. I host in my own home, and when I open my front door I want to recognise the person who is standing there and that is MY right. I notice that no mention has been made of photos of cartoon characters, kittens, puppies etc which so many guests like to use - are they going to be banned or is Airbnb still going to accept them in case it upsets some delicate little guest who is not happy with displaying their face? What next? Are names to be witheld as well?
When my three boys were young they were all members of various sports teams and clubs and passport sized photos of them had to be provided upon registration, together with their dates of birth, to avoid cheating - ie some hulking great 9 year old turning up to play with a puny 6 year old. Nobody ever questioned this procedure as we could all see that it was for the good of the team and the safelty of the children. All Airbnb are doing by trying to implement this is successfully giving guests a Cheats Charter and the Hosts are being treated like people of no consequence. But then, what do we expect these days.