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Airbnb introduces user ID verification programme

Online lodging service Airbnb has introduced its "next step for trust": the Verified ID programme.

The new feature aims to establish trust among the Airbnb community of renters by connecting offline and online services to verify identities.

Users can earn a "Verified ID" badge by matching their online identity via existing Airbnb reviews, LinkedIn, or Facebook, and with offline identification — confirmed personal details or a scanned photo ID. The name provided by both channels must match.

Airbnb connects guests looking for a place to stay, in one of 34,000 cities across 192 countries, with hosts willing to share their accommodations. But, until now, travelers simply had to rely on the kindness, and integrity, of strangers.

To kick off the Verified ID service, Airbnb is requiring a random 25 per cent of users in the US to go through with the verification process.

"Soon, we'll expand this requirement to users around the world," Airbnb's Vivek Wagle said in a blog post. "We hope that hosts and guests worldwide will see the benefits of interacting with users who complete Verified ID. Our goal is for all Airbnb members to have Verified ID eventually."

The feature is not required, but strongly suggested, as it may help boost those postings above unverified ones.

On the flip side, any Airbnb host can now require prospective guests to obtain Verified IDs before booking. Trust is a two-way street, though, Wagle said, explaining that any host who requires this condition must also get verified.

Members are welcome to verify their identity online at any time.

Forbes pointed to the verification model as a move other companies may soon make, following in the footsteps of pioneers like eBay. CEO Brian Chesky told Forbes that the Verification ID programme "is the foundation" for future security updates.

"Trust and verification," Wagle said. "They just go together."

After several unfortunate incidents back in 2011 - when some Airbnb members had their homes destroyed or ransacked by guests - the company was forced to make changes, like installing a 24-hour customer hotline, doubling the size of its support team, and putting in place a dedicated trust and safety department.