Building Trust Online - Airbnb User Safety close

Mark McDermott
In Codegent News, Online Innovation, Apps
4th August 2011
Building Trust Online - Airbnb User Safety

Is user verification an essential part of your business?

Many websites rely on their users' identity to be verified in order to create trust, especially when it comes to the exchange of money or even to ensure physical safety.

If you follow any of the major tech blogs you will have heard about the nightmares that Airbnb, the highly valued online marketplace for peer-to-peer travelling, have had recently. Airbnb enables people to earn money by renting out extra space, and offers travellers a viable alternative to hotels and hostels. However, after one blogger’s flat in San Francisco was ransacked by a “guest” concerns over safety and security were raised by the community.

Webcam SnapperAirbnb have rapidly added a load of new security features to their platform, including our very own Webcam Snapper app to help validate user identity.

Snapper is just one ingredient though so I thought it would be interesting to list the forms of verification they are using to build up a comprehensive user trust profile.

  1. Webcam Photos
    This is ideal for helping you build trust that your users are who they say they are. A webcam photo taken whilst the user is logged into their account is far more likely to be authentic. Photos can also be date stamped and you can also request the user holds up an ID cards, driving licenses or passport to add further proof.
  2. Validating a Phone Number
    Entering your mobile number and being sent a code automatically via SMS to input is pretty simple but very effective. Of course not all mobile numbers lead to trackable contracted folks but having a verified contact number is helpful.
  3. Connecting your Social Network Profiles
    Over the past couple of years we have seen the rise of social logins where users can create accounts on websites and apps by authorising facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. to act on their behalf. Originally this was designed for convenience and end user security. However this use case is all about extending the digital footprint of a person for trust verification purposes. LinkedIn is an especially interesting use case here as an account on this platform very much places the user profile in a real life context.
  4. User on User Reviews
    The power of comments from total strangers has meant big business for the likes of Amazon, Apple, eBay and Trip Advisor and this is no different. Over time the web has built up a degree of community, camaraderie and social responsibility amongst total strangers with a unified goal. The principle being that if we collectively share our thoughts and experiences we can all benefit from better products and services, as well as avoiding disasters!

Taken one by one none of the above (sadly even Snapper) can realistically say they crack the issue of online trust. However as a collective they build a compelling picture of a person that would be very hard to fake. Dodgy users are clearly not going to try and follow these steps which will weed them out as potential people to avoid.

In that regard Airbnb can say with some conviction that home owners enter into deals at their own risk. The vast majority of good apples won’t have any issues with that.