Discussing discrimination at a Q&A for Airbnb Hosts
Hosts want access to important information about their guests
Concerns have been raised about the potential for photos to be misused in a way that violates our nondiscrimination policy
The Airbnb guest profile photo policy is a way to balance these concerns
Recognizing diverse perspectives from the host community
In October 2018, Airbnb changed how guest profile photos are displayed to encourage more objective decision-making in the booking process. Now, guest profile photos are only displayed after the booking is confirmed.During a Host Q&A session in London in April 2019, hosts discussed the impact of these changes, which led to a thoughtful discussion about biases and discrimination. Whether we’re conscious of them or not, we all hold beliefs and biases about different social groups and types of people. And as open-minded as we try to be, sometimes bias—whether it's conscious or unconscious—causes us to make decisions that affect others.
Some hosts expressed concern with the update, emphasizing the valuable role that photos can play in providing them with information about their guests. But many others, like Dennis, applauded the update, noting how photos can contribute to discrimination.
“I’ve had many guests come to me and say, ‘The reason why I chose you [to be my host] is because I knew I would not be rejected because of who I am,’” Dennis says.
Laura Chambers, who was Airbnb’s General Manager at the time, closed the discussion with an acknowledgment that conversations about discrimination are complex and challenging, but they’re also essential. Discrimination can be hard to talk about, but we have to confront it head on—together—before we can fight it.
Understanding how guest profile photos work on Airbnb
We all have bias. But companies like Airbnb can help create tools that help prevent people from making biased decisions—which is why we made a commitment in 2016 to evaluate how we display guest profile photos in the booking process. Now guests’ profile photos aren’t displayed to hosts until after a booking is confirmed, which encourages more objective decision making by hosts.
We reached this decision after participating in a number of conversations with hosts and guests. While most guests provide a photo, some told us that they don’t want to share a picture of themselves when booking. We also recognize their concerns 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.The policy we have today was designed to try and meet the needs of both hosts and guests. Our goal is simple: to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere. Displaying a guest’s photo to hosts after they’ve accepted a booking is our way of trying to strike that delicate balance. Learn more about these changes
To give hosts like you more control in this process and help you build trust with guests before a trip, you can:
- Require that guests provide a government ID to Airbnb before they can book your listing
- Message guests to ask about the purpose of their trip
- Discover past guest reviews to learn what other hosts had to say about their experience with a guest
- Require that guests have a profile photo, though the photo will still appear only after a booking is accepted
These steps can help empower hosts while still trying to reduce discrimination. We also created a toolkit that explains different types of bias and stereotyping, how they might impact a community member’s experience on the Airbnb platform, and what you can do to overcome them.
But there’s still more work to be done, and we know this is just one of many important discussions. We’ll continue to meet with hosts to learn how we can work together to help make people from all backgrounds feel safe, respected, and welcome.