Australia markets open in 8 hours 46 minutes

    +42.20 (+0.52%)

    -0.0028 (-0.42%)
  • ASX 200

    +39.40 (+0.50%)
  • OIL

    +0.17 (+0.21%)
  • GOLD

    +8.60 (+0.36%)
  • Bitcoin AUD

    +343.12 (+0.34%)
  • CMC Crypto 200

    -0.66 (-0.05%)

Banned from Airbnb with no explanation? Here’s why

Airbnb logo on phone.
If you've been kicked off Airbnb wihout a reason, you're not alone. (Source: Reuters)

Airbnb may be digging through users’ old social media posts to keep people it deems untrustworthy off the site.

If the algorithm it uses doesn't like what it sees, it seems users can be rejected without explanation.

That’s what happened to Renae Macheda.

Macheda, who works in real estate, described herself and her husband as "clean, boring people" and was shocked when she tried to book an Airbnb last year and discovered she had been kicked off the platform.


When she started asking questions, she was not given a reason for the ban and was told the platform “reviewed your case thoroughly before reaching this conclusion”.

She was also told she would not be able to challenge the decision further.

"I think they should give you an explanation," Macheda said.

“To give nothing at all and no options to try and remedy whatever it is, it's not really good enough."

Information may be wrong

CHOICE consumer data advocate Kate Bower said it was very concerning that people didn’t have the opportunity to check the accuracy of the information gathered by these companies.

It’s not hard to imagine situations where the algorithm can be wrong.

For example, Bower said she parked in a liquor store car park every weekend to take her kids to an adjacent cafe.

To an algorithm, that might look like she goes to buy alcohol every Sunday at 9:00am.

What else does it screen for?

It’s hard to know exactly what the algorithm is looking for but available information on the software shows someone with a PhD may be considered more trustworthy than someone with a bachelor’s degree, for example.

“And we don't really know if that makes someone more trustworthy or not,” Bower said.

Other signs the algorithm may be looking for could be if people have used fake names online, have been involved with certain types of social media groups or have appeared on news sites the platform considers unsavoury.

CHOICE also heard from people who had been banned because they were sex workers or connected to the industry in some way.

Matthew Roberts from Sex Work Law Reform Victoria said banning someone from a platform based on their occupation was discriminatory and better protections were needed.

So what can I do?

According to Bower, it’s very difficult to stop companies snooping around unless you are prepared to go completely offline.

She said there was already a huge amount of data on consumers, and that algorithms and machine-learning technologies were only getting better at making sense of these data points.

She recommended reading privacy policies, although they were often vague, and not connecting to online platforms using your Facebook account.

Bower wants to see stronger regulation to “protect people because we're not able to protect ourselves”.

“Airbnb’s behaviour highlights a significant regulatory gap, which allows companies to collect and use data without any transparency or accountability,” Bower said.

“The Federal Government needs to strengthen protections against companies collecting, storing and using sensitive personal data like this.”

Follow Yahoo Finance on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter, and subscribe to the free Fully Briefed daily newsletter.