Airbnb user trustworthiness scoring

Released: 2017

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

Per CHOICE's report, the patented algorithm is claimed to assess people's personality traits, such as narcissism or conscientiousness, along with behavioural traits, such as use of drugs or alcohol or involvement in civil litigation and other behaviour, and combine them to create a holistic score that judges a person's trustworthiness.'

As 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.

In May 2021, the Financial Times reported that Airbnb's 'Smart Pricing' algorithm widens racial discrepancies, albeit unintentionally.

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

Page info
Type: System
Published: March 2022