Airbnb's new Verified ID system makes guests to prove they are real people

Airbnb's new Verified ID system requires proof of identity to use their system.

It's tough out there in recession land. You know who has lots of disposable money? Complete strangers from out of town who you meet on the Internet. Matching guests and hosts has been the successful premise of the online short-term rental marketplace, Airbnb.

The service allows users to "effortlessly" rent out their unused apartments, back rooms, or abandoned castles. The whole Airbnb concept was built on a foundation of trust as to the relative safety of letting a complete stranger stay in your residence (or vice versa, as a traveler staying in some complete stranger's house). Unfortunately, this trust in people whose only verifiable quality is the ability to connect to the Internet, hasn't always worked out. In one well-publicized case from 2011, an Airbnb host from Oakland, California rented his house out to a drug addict who "did thousands of dollars of bizarre damage to my rented home and left it littered with meth pipes."

The resulting negative publicity forced the Airbnb to implement a $1 million guarantee backed by Lloyd's of London to cover "the rare event of guest damages." Further towards the concept of security, the website has just implemented a Verified ID system, which will provide "a connection between the online and offline spaces." The system works by asking users to provide a viable online identity via existing Airbnb reviews, LinkedIn, or Facebook and matching it to offline identification by confirming personal information or scanning in a photo ID.

Any Airbnb host can require a prospective guest to have a Verified ID before booking, but any host who requires this must be willing be verified themselves.

According to the Airbnb blog, the site "will require a random 25% of users in the USA to go through the Verified ID process," and will soon expand the requirement around the world.

Bugs in the system

I whipped through most of the verification in less than 10 minutes via my Facebook account and without scanning in my identification. It asked me to verify my email address and then asked multi-choice questions based on information culled from my Facebook account--though I'm still trying to figure out how it would know to ask for the last four digits of my social security number or how it would verify my previous street address because FB does not have that information.

It may be an early bug, but I was not able to verify my phone number--the last part of verification. I entered my cell phone number and had a choice of prompts for either SMS verification or for an automated phone call. Whenever I pushed either button, the website did not appear to verify that the information was entered and no phone call or SMS ever arrived. So, as of writing this, I remain unverified.

Overall, we put a lot of trust in corporations and fellow users in the Internet marketplace. And the vast majority of the time, there is no problem. However, once it functions properly, a simple identification verification system such as this will make a lot of guests and hosts sleep better at night.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Web & socialAirbnbsecurity

More about FacebookLloyd's of London

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Evan Dashevsky

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts