Airbnb user trustworthiness scoring

Airbnb’s user trustworthiness scoring is a system that uses an algorithm to assess the trustworthiness of users. 

The system collects and feeds users’ personal data into an algorithm, including information from their social media accounts, profession, education level, and any other online data that can be found in order to assess their personality traits, such as narcissism or conscientiousness. 

It also collects information about behavioural traits, such as use of drugs or alcohol or involvement in civil litigation and other behaviour, and combines them to create a holistic score that judges a person's trustworthiness.

Operator: Airbnb
Developer: Airbnb/Trooly
Country: Australia; New Zealand; USA
Sector: Travel/hospitality
Purpose: Assess trustworthiness
Technology: Behavioural analysis; Personality analysis; Ranking algorithm
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - profession/job; Fairness
Transparency: Governance; Black box; Complaints/appeals

Risks and harms 🛑

Airbnb’s user trustworthiness scoring has been criticised for being unfair, manipulativviolating privacy, and for poor transparency.

An investigation by Australian consumer rights organisation CHOICE discovered that Airbnb secretly collects and feeds users’ personal data into an algorithm that assesses whether they are trustworthy enough to make a booking.

Consumer NZ notes, Airbnb's privacy policy 'features vague statements about conducting profiling on users and their activities both on and off the platform, using information obtained from third parties.' Furthermore, the company provides users with no reason why they have been banned.

A February 2020 Vice reported on a legal complaint (pdf) filed by US privacy organisation EPIC alleging that Airbnb's 'opaque' trustworthiness algorithm 'commit[s] unfair and deceptive practices in violation of the FTC Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act.' 

EPIC also pointed out the algorithm violates the fairness and transparency principles and standards laid out by the OECD and other international organisations.

Page info
Type: System
Published: March 2022
Last updated: May 2024