Sunday, 13 July 2014

More on Airbnb

Readers you may recall our recent trip to Paris and that we booked the apartment through the airbnb website.  It was all rather painless and the apartment was great.  Where it started to get difficult was the request by airbnb to leave feedback on on our experience.  We were prepared to do this, however airbnb wanted ID verification by providing a copy of a passport, drivers licence or government ID card.  We’re not prepared to provide this information just to give feedback.  Moreover they didn’t want this information to make the booking or take the money!

To compound the problem the airbnb website doesn’t have a ‘contact us’ or a ‘help’ link on the main page as the website automatically defaults to the verification page demanding ID.

After several automatic reminders we received a “Final Reminder” to complete the process and earn $20 voucher.  We ignored the final email.  A week later we received an email from a human (I think) asking whether were were having problems with our account.

Hello Tom,

My name is ********* and I'm a member of the Airbnb Trust and Safety team. For security reasons, we are proactively requiring additional verification information. This precautionary measure is necessary to keep your account active. In order to ensure that your future experiences with Airbnb go as smoothly as possible, kindly ask that you use the following link to complete verification, and then send a reply to this email to confirm you have done so:

So I replied

Dear ********,
I would like to leave positive feedback regarding our recent holiday.  However I am not prepared to provide airbnb with copies of the requested documents just to leave feedback.  I note it was quite acceptable to book and pay for our accommodation without this information.

And ******** wrote back

Dear Tom,

Thanks for your reply! I apologize for confusion or concern this process may have caused.

We believe that providing the right environment allows you to make safe, informed decisions so we have instituted a number of tools for users to build their reputation and verify the information on their profile. Profiles can include up to twenty photos (and even a video profile), verified phone numbers and email addresses, and authentic reviews from other users.
By also connecting your Facebook and/or Linkedin account, we are able to reference indicators that will allow us to verify your identity. This is used solely for verification purposes and we will never post to your timeline without your approval or share this information with anyone.
Please note that our verification process is a mandatory step in order to utilize your Airbnb account. In the meantime, please let us know if you have any additional questions. 

I bet they would like this information.  I’ve made many internet hotel bookings in my time and never had to provide this type of information.  How many companies can I think of who have stated they will protect your personal data and then have to subsequently apologise because their security was breached and the data stolen.  I don’t want my identity stolen and frankly I’m getting tired of receiving emails from Nigerian princes!

So I wrote to **********

Dear *********
When I attempt to access my account it defaults to the verification page where my options are
"Take a photo or use your computer's webcam to upload a picture of your official ID, such as a driver's license or passport."
I don't see any other options?

And today I received the following reply

Dear Tom,

Thanks for your reply! Completing offline verification by uploading a photo of a current government issued ID is required, which is why your account automatically takes you to this page.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please let us know!

So we’re back to requiring a photo and current government issued ID documentation.

I don’t have any further questions or concerns, our mutual positions are clear.  This is where airbnb and I part company!

Having a father with a masters degree in computer science and a son in internet marketing has made me very aware how your personal data is collected and used.  There’s no such think as a free lunch.  Google, Facebook, etc, etc don’t give you a free program.  They harvest and sell your data to make money.  Despite Facebook’s persistent efforts I refuse to give them anything but the bare minimum of personal data, and some of that is inaccurate.  For example my marital status is unknown and I was born “somewhere” in 1901.  Probably why my Facebook page shows Ad’s to buy viagra, hearing loss products, incontinent pads and meet nubile young women.  Smile


Tom and Jan said...

Hi Halfie and Paul,

Yes, apparently it was posted twice. I received a server error message when I first clicked the "publish" button so I clicked it a second time!
Oops... duplicate post...

Paul (from Waterway Routes) said...

So two people are reading your blog well enough to notice a duplicate post. Now you can refer to us as readers (plural) :-)

Tom and Jan said...

Actually there must be three readers because this morning a lady opened the side hatch on her boat and told me she readers it every day!