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Vrbo's Super Bowl 'risk scores' are basically pre-crime for house parties

An algorithm will flag risky bookings and let hosts cancel for free.
Dec 30, 2022; Glendale AZ, USA; Workers place Vrbo signage on the exterior of State Farm Stadium, the site of the 2022 CFP Semifinal between the TCU Horned Frogs and the Michigan Wolverines and Super Bowl 57 (LVII). Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY USPW / reuters
Will Shanklin
Will Shanklin|January 31, 2023 1:25 PM

As the Super Bowl approaches, Airbnb rival Vrbo announced its use of “unauthorized event prevention technology,” algorithms that try to avoid house parties at rental properties. Similar to a credit system, the tech generates a risk score for each booking, giving hosts a chance to call it off.

The Expedia-owned company will score renters based on their length of stay, lead time, number of guests and other factors. Vrbo is careful to add that it doesn’t use demographical information (race, sex, gender, age and so on) to evaluate risk. If a renter triggers a warning, Vrbo sends the host an email alert, giving them the option to cancel without a penalty; guests also receive a message reminding them of the policy.

Although Vrbo is rolling out the new system nationally, it recently conducted a yearlong pilot test in the Phoenix area, where Super Bowl LVII takes place on February 12th. The trial allegedly prevented over 500 unauthorized bookings in the US, saving hosts $2.5 million in cleanup and repairs. Vrbo will also restrict same-day bookings, team up with noise-monitoring and neighborhood watch services and share data with Airbnb about troublesome renters.

The new system will automatically apply to all US bookings. Vrbo says fewer than 0.25 percent of all weekend bookings in the US have led to party-related complaints.

Vrbo's Super Bowl 'risk scores' are basically pre-crime for house parties