Couchsurfing.com Privacy Policy

Effective Date: November 1, 2021

Please read this Global Privacy Policy (“Privacy Policy”) carefully to get a clear understanding of how Couchsurfing International, Inc. (“Couchsurfing,” “we,” “us” or “our”) collects, uses, discloses, protects and otherwise handles information about you. Our privacy practices may vary among the countries in which we operate to reflect local practices and legal requirements. In this Privacy Policy, we also provide a supplementary privacy notice for California residents and a supplementary privacy notice for data subjects in the EEA, Switzerland and the UK (collectively, “Europe”).

About Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing provides a platform for members to learn about one another, arrange stays and travel, engage in activities and communicate with one another. Couchsurfing connects travelers with a global network of people willing to share in profound and meaningful ways, making travel a truly social experience. We are a community built on trust. A fundamental part of earning that trust means being clear about how we use your information and protect your right to privacy.

This Privacy Policy describes:

  • the information we collect about you,
  • how we use and share that information, and
  • the privacy choices available to you.

This Privacy Policy applies to information we collect when you use our websites (“Site”), mobile application (“App”) and other online products and services (collectively, the “Services”), or when you otherwise interact with us.

From time to time, we may change the provisions of this Privacy Policy. If we make material changes to this Privacy Policy, we will notify you by updating the date of this Privacy Policy and posting it on the App and the Site. If required by law, we will also provide notification of changes in another way that we believe is reasonably likely to reach you, such as via email or another manner through the App or the Site. We encourage you to review the Privacy Policy regularly to stay informed about our information practices and the ways you can help protect your privacy.

What Information Do We Collect When You Use Our Services?

Information You Provide to Us

We collect information you provide to us, such as when you create an account, update your profile, use the interactive features of our Services, participate in contests, promotions or surveys, request customer support or otherwise communicate with us.

The types of information we may collect include:

  • Account information, such as your name, username, gender, birth date, email address, mailing address, city, country, postal code, billing address, phone number and profile picture;
  • Communications that we exchange with users when they contact us with questions or feedback, including feedback about interacting with other users, and messages and interactive forum information, such as discussion group posts, messages to other Couchsurfing users and information you provide in connection with activities and events;
  • Other background, contact and demographic information, such as your occupation, personal URL, IM username, emergency contact, home descriptions, travel history and plans and other interests and self-descriptions you choose to provide;
  • Payment and transactional data when you pay for our Services, including name, payment card information, bank account number, billing information, and your transaction history. This information is collected and processed by our payment providers, Stripe, PayPal  , Google and Apple, and we do not have access to payment card numbers. In addition to this Privacy Policy and our Terms of Use, information related to your payments or purchases is also processed according to Stripe’s, PayPal’s, Google’s, and Apple’s service agreements and privacy policies.
  • Information stored on your mobile device (if you have given us permission to access this information), such as your photos, calendar information and your contacts’ name, phone numbers and image thumbnail (if available). In particular, to help users connect with people they know, we offer them the option to invite friends to join them on Couchsurfing. To take advantage of this feature, users can opt in to share phone numbers from their address book or add phone numbers manually.
  • Identity verification data that you may provide if you elect to use the identity verification service. This includes the identity document and images used in the process, as well as the information included on the identity document provided, as permitted by the applicable law. This information is collected and processed by a third party identity verification service provided by Onfido. For more information on how Onfido may handle your data please review Onfido’s privacy policy.

Information We Collect Automatically

When you access or use our Services, we may also automatically collect information about you, including:

  • Location Information: We may collect information about your location when you access our mobile application or website, or otherwise consent to the collection of this information through your device settings.
  • Device Information: We collect device-specific information when you access our Services, including your hardware model, operating system and version, unique device identifiers, mobile network information and information about the device’s interaction with our Services.
  • Log Information: We collect log information about how you access or use our Services, including your access times, browser type and language, Internet Service Provider and Internet Protocol (“IP”) address.
  • Information Collected by Cookies and other Tracking Technologies: We may automatically collect information using cookies, web beacons (also known as “tracking gifs,” “pixel tags” and “tracking pixels”) and other tracking technologies to, among other things, operate the Services, improve our Services and your experience, monitor user activity, count visits, understand usage and campaign effectiveness, and tell if an email has been opened and acted upon.

Information We Collect from Other Sources

Information collected from third party services. We may obtain information from other sources and combine that with information we collect through our Services. For example, if you link, connect, or login to the Services through a third-party social networking site, you direct that third-party service to send us information such as your name, connections, email address, birthday, gender, location and other account information in accordance with the authorization procedures determined by such third-party social networking site or as authorized by you via your privacy settings at that service.

Information collected from other Services Users. We may receive information about you from other Couchsurfing users, such as trust ratings, feedback, friend connections, public references, and other interconnections and interactions between you and other Couchsurfing users.

How Do We Use this Information?

We use information about you to:

Provide our services, including to:

  • Operate the Services and our business;
  • Create and maintain your account;
  • Enable you to communicate and connect with other members,
  • Maintain and improve our Services and their features;
  • Send you technical notices, updates, security alerts and support and administrative messages, including by sending you push notifications;
  • Respond to your comments, questions and requests and provide customer service;
  • Personalize the Services, which may include providing content or features that match user profiles or interests;
  • Process and deliver contest entries and rewards; and
  • Link or combine with other information we get from third parties to help understand your needs and provide you with better service.

Direct marketing. We may send you direct marketing communications as permitted by law, including, but not limited to, notifying you of products, services, offers, promotions, rewards and events and provide other news and information about Couchsurfing and other third parties.

Research and development. We may create and use aggregate user information to analyze the effectiveness of our Services, to improve and add features to our Services, and to analyze the general behavior and characteristics of users of our Services.

Support and Maintenance. We use third party analytics services to automatically log certain information about your computer or mobile device and how you interact with the Services. The information collected is used to troubleshoot and prevent errors, perform data analysis, and develop new features.

Compliance with Laws, and Creating and Maintaining a Trusted and Safer Environment. We may use personal information to:

  • Protect the safety of Couchsurfing users and provide our verification service;
  • Enforce our Terms of Use;
  • Investigate potential Trust and Safety violations;
  • Audit our internal processes for compliance with legal and contractual requirements and internal policies;
  • Prevent, identify, investigate and deter fraudulent, harmful, unauthorized, unethical or illegal activity, including cyberattacks and identity theft; and
  • Comply with applicable laws, lawful requests, and legal process, such as to respond to subpoenas or requests from government authorities.

Processing of Your Personal Information Abroad

Couchsurfing has users located across the globe. We may store and process personal information in the United States and other countries, which may not have the same data protection laws as your home country or territory. However, wherever we store your information we will treat it in accordance with this Privacy Policy or as otherwise disclosed to you. Please note, while Couchsurfing is certified under the EU.-U.S. and the Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield frameworks, following the invalidation of such frameworks we no longer rely on Privacy Shield for our cross-border data transfers. However, we continue to comply with the frameworks. Please read the information below, which we provide in accordance with the Privacy Shield Notice Principle.

Couchsurfing International Inc. complies with the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework and the Swiss - U.S. Privacy Shield Framework as set forth by the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding the collection, use, and retention of personal information transferred from the European Union, United Kingdom and Switzerland to the United States, respectively. Couchsurfing International Inc. has certified to the Department of Commerce that it adheres to the Privacy Shield Principles. If there is any conflict between the terms in this privacy policy and the Privacy Shield Principles, the Privacy Shield Principles shall govern. To learn more about the Privacy Shield program, and to view our certification, please visit https://www.privacyshield.gov/.

To the extent required by the Privacy Shield principles or applicable law, you have the opportunity to choose (opt out) whether your personal information is (i) to be disclosed to a third party or (ii) to be used for a purpose that is materially different from the purpose(s) for which it was originally collected or subsequently authorized by you. For more information about the choices you have in relation to your personal information, visit the “Your Information Choices”, and to exercise your rights please email privacy@couchsurfing.com.

In compliance with the Privacy Shield Principles, we commit to resolve complaints about our collection or use of your personal information. Individuals with inquiries or complaints regarding our Privacy Shield policy should first contact us at privacy@couchsurfing.com. If you have an unresolved privacy or data use concern that we have not addressed satisfactorily, please contact our U.S.-based third party dispute resolution provider (free of charge) here. Note, you may have the possibility, under certain conditions, to invoke binding arbitration for complaints regarding Privacy Shield compliance not resolved by any of the other Privacy Shield mechanisms. For more information about invoking binding arbitration, please review additional information here. Couchsurfing is responsible and liable if third-party agents that it uses to process the personal data on its behalf do so in a manner inconsistent with the Privacy Shield Principles, unless Couchsurfing proves that it is not responsible for the event that allowed the damage to occur.

We are subject to investigatory and enforcement powers of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission with respect to personal information received or transferred pursuant to the Privacy Shield Framework

Sharing of Information

We share personal information as follows:

  • With your consent;
  • With third party vendors, consultants and other service providers who need access to such information to carry out their work for us (such as hosting, analytics, customer support, email and SMS delivery, identity verification (Onfido), and fraud prevention and detection);.
  • With search engines in order to index the content you provide as part of a discussion forum or public profile;
  • With partners who run contests, special offers or other events or activities in connection with our Services;
  • In connection with, or during negotiations of, any merger, sale of company assets, financing or acquisition of all or a portion of our business to another company;
  • If we believe that disclosure is reasonably necessary to comply with any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request, including to meet national security or law enforcement requirements; and
  • To enforce our agreements, policies, and Terms of Use to protect the security or integrity of our Services; or to protect Couchsurfing, our users or the public from harm or illegal activities.

How You Share Personal Information:

  • Other Users. When you establish an account on Couchsurfing, you share certain of your profile information with the Couchsurfing community. This information includes your profile picture, name, username and other information you may elect to share in accordance with the privacy settings you establish on the Service.
  • Social Media Tools. Couchsurfing may offer social sharing features or other integrated tools which let you share actions you take on our Services with other media, and vice versa. The use of such features enables the sharing of certain information with your friends or the public, depending on the settings you establish with the third party that provides the social sharing feature. For more information about the purpose and scope of data collection and processing in connection with social sharing features, please visit the privacy policies of the third parties that provide these social sharing features. Couchsurfing may also allow you to access Mapbox Maps. Please note that when you use Mapbox Maps, you are subject to Mapbox’s Privacy Policy (https://www.mapbox.com/legal/privacy), as amended by Mapbox from time to time.

Third Party Links

Occasionally, at our discretion, we may include or offer third party products or services as part of our Services. These third parties may have separate and independent privacy policies. We therefore have no responsibility or liability for the activities of these third parties and how they collect, use or share information about you. Nonetheless, we seek to protect the integrity of our Services and welcome any feedback about these third parties.

Advertising and Analytics Services Provided by Others

We may allow third parties to serve advertisements on our behalf across the Internet and to provide analytics services in relation to the use of our Services. These entities may use cookies, web beacons and other technologies to collect information about your use of the Services and other websites, including your IP address and information about your web browser and operating system, pages viewed, time spent on pages, links clicked and conversion information. This information may be used by Couchsurfing and others to, among other things, analyze and track data, determine the popularity of certain content, deliver advertising and content targeted to your interests on our Services and other websites and better understand your online activity. Please note that we may share aggregated or de-identified data with these third parties. For example, we may engage a third party data provider who may collect web log data from you or place or recognize a unique cookie on your browser to enable you to receive customized ads or content. These cookies may reflect de-identified demographic or other data linked to information you voluntarily provide to us (e.g., an email address) in a hashed, non-human readable form.

In particular, we use:

  • Google Firebase Crashlytics (provided by Google LLC) to get crash reports and metrics and to derive analytics information regarding the use of the App, including by collecting identifiers for mobile devices (including Android Advertising ID and Advertising Identifier for iOS). Firebase Crashlytics retains crash stack traces, extracted minidump data, and associated identifiers (including Crashlytics Installation UUIDs) for 90 days. To learn more about how Google uses data when you use the App please read here.
  • Amplitude, to collect analytics information relating to the Services. Amplitude’s privacy policy can be found here: https://amplitude.com/privacy.
  • Google Analytics, a web analytics service provided by Google. These cookies help us analyze how users use the Site and enhance your experience when you use the Site. For more information on how Google uses this data, go to www.google.com/policies/privacy/partners/. You can opt out of Google Analytics by downloading and installing the browser plug-in available at: https://tools.google.com/dlpage/gaoptout.

For more information about interest-based ads, or to opt out of having your web browsing information used for behavioral advertising purposes, please visit www.aboutads.info/choices.

How Do We Protect Your Information?

We take security of your data seriously and take reasonable measures to protect information about you from loss, theft, misuse, unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration, and destruction. However, no Internet or e-mail transmission is ever fully secure or error free. In particular, e-mail sent to or from us may not be secure. Therefore, you should take special care in deciding what information you send to us via the Internet. Please keep this in mind when disclosing any personal information to us via the Internet. In addition, we are not responsible for circumvention of any privacy settings or security measures contained on the Services, or third party websites. Finally, we cannot control the actions of users on the platform, who may seek to use third party apps or devices to record, store, or share content or communication without other users' prior consent. Please keep this in mind when using the Services.

Children

The Services are not intended for use by children under 18 years of age. If we learn that we have collected personal information through the Services from a child under 18 without the consent of the child’s parent or guardian as required by law, we will delete it.

Your Information Choices

Privacy Settings You have many choices about your data.

  • You can update and correct most of your personal data through your account. If this is not possible, you can ask us to update your data, particularly in cases of inaccuracy, by contacting Customer Support (https://support.couchsurfing.org/hc/en-us).
  • You can request a portable copy of your data under the Privacy section of your Account and Settings (Desktop only).
  • You can opt-out of email marketing and push notifications using the Email and Push Notification options in your Account and Settings Page. You may also opt out of marketing-related emails by following the opt out or unsubscribe instructions contained in the communications we send you. If you opt out, we may still send you transactional or relationship messages, such as emails about your account.
  • You may determine whether certain information about you will be visible to others by navigating to "Account & Settings" on our website and editing your options under "Privacy."

Account Information

You may deactivate your account at any time by contacting support@couchsurfing.com. Even after you deactivate your account, we may retain certain information as required by law, for legitimate business purposes or to protect member safety. If your account is deactivated, Couchsurfing will provide access to the data associated with the deactivated account upon receipt of the required legal documentation.

Location Information via Mobile Device

You have the ability to turn location-based services on and off by adjusting the settings of your Internet browser or mobile device and by following the standard uninstall process and removing Couchsurfing’s application from your device. Doing so, however, may mean that you cannot use all or a portion of our Services.

Online Tracking Opt-Out

Most web browsers are set to accept cookies by default. However, you can choose to set your browser to remove or reject browser cookies. Each browser is a little different, so look at your browser's help menu to learn the correct way to modify your cookies, or visit www.allaboutcookies.org. Please note, however, that our Services may not function properly if your browser does not accept cookies.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, please contact us here, or via mail at Couchsurfing International, Inc. Attention: Legal Department, PO Box 7775 ECM 86600, San Francisco, CA 94120, United States, or email at privacy@couchsurfing.com.

Notice To California Residents

We are providing this supplemental privacy notice to Consumers in California, pursuant to the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (“CCPA”).

The CCPA grants California residents the following rights:

  • Information.Our Privacy Policy describes how we use and share your personal information through the Services, including during the past 12 months. The Policy describes:

a)    The sources through which we collect California residents’ personal information and the types of personal information collected in the What Information Do We Collect When You Use Our Services? section above.

b)    The purposes for which we use and share this information in the How Do We Use this Information? section above and the Sharing of Information section above.

  • Access. You can request a copy of the personal information that we maintain about you.
  • Deletion. You can ask to delete the personal information that we maintain about you.
  • Opt-out of sale of your personal information. We do not sell personal information. We offer instructions on how to limit online tracking in the Online Tracking Opt-Out section above.

The CCPA limits these rights. For example, companies may not provide users in response to access requests certain sensitive information and other consumers’ personal information, and may exclude information that would compromise the confidentiality of trade secrets. The CCPA also places limits on when companies must comply with a deletion request.

You are entitled to exercise the rights described above free from discrimination.

Here is how you can submit requests:

  • To request access to or deletion of personal information collected, please email us at privacy@couchsurfing.com or by mail at Couchsurfing International, Inc. Attention: Legal Department, PO Box 7775 ECM 86600, San Francisco, CA 94120.
  • Authorized agents. California residents can empower an “authorized agent” to submit requests on their behalf. We will require authorized agents to confirm their identity and authority, in accordance with the CCPA.

Notice to European Data Subjects

We are providing this supplemental privacy notice to European data subjects, pursuant to European data protection laws (“GDPR”).

Controller and Representative

Couchsurfing is responsible for how your personal data is handled. This means we are the controller of your personal data under the GDPR. You can find our contact information in the Contact Us section above.

Couchsurfing has appointed DataRep as its Data Protection Representative in the EEA and the UK.

DataRep has locations in each of the 27 EU countries, the UK, and Norway & Iceland in the European Economic Area (EEA), so that Couchsurfing's users can always raise the questions they want with them.

If you want to raise a question to Couchsurfing, or otherwise exercise your rights in respect of your personal data, you may do so by:

Please note: When mailing your data protection inquiries, it is essential that you mark your letters for "DataRep" and not "Couchsurfing", or your inquiry may not reach DataRep. Please refer clearly to Couchsurfing in your correspondence. On receiving your correspondence, Couchsurfing is likely to request evidence of your identity, to ensure your personal data and information connected with it is not provided to anyone other than you.

Personal Data We Collect From You and How We Use It. You can read about the personal data we collect from you in the What Information Do We Collect When You Use Our Services? section above, and how we use it in the How Do We Use this Information? section above.

Justification for Data Processing. European data protection law sets out a list of justifications on which companies may rely to process personal data, and requires companies to explain to consumers the specific justifications for the company’s data processing activities.  We generally rely on one of the following justifications to process personal data:

  • Contractual Necessity, to provide you with the Services in accordance with our Terms of Use.
  • Legitimate Interests, where it is necessary for our legitimate business purposes, your interest or the interests of a third party.
  • Consent, where required by law. Where we rely on your consent to process personal data about you, you have the right to later withdraw your consent in the manner indicated when you consent or by contacting us as described in this Privacy Policy.

Provision of some of this data is necessary to establish an account on Couchsurfing.

Types of Personal Data

Purpose

Justification for Processing Personal Data

Account Information

To create and maintain your account

Contractual Necessity

Account Information

To respond to your inquiries

To send you notification or emails of feature releases or provide content that we think may be of interest to you

Contractual Necessity

Legitimate Interests:

Providing you with the support that you request, and improving our Services and related services

Sending you information on our own products and services that may be of interest to you

Communications

To address users’ inquiries

For Trust and Safety purposes, in relation to information (such as feedback) Services users may provide about their interactions with you

To improve the Services in relation to information (such as feedback) about your experience with the Service

Legitimate Interests:

Providing user support

Enabling us to prevent and detect harmful or unauthorized conduct

Improving and developing the Services and developing new features and services. For example, we may decide to build a new feature in response to feedback received from users

Information stored on the user device such as photos, calendar information, and contacts.

To enable you to invite your contacts to join the Services and for those contacts to receive invitations

Showing you which of your contacts joins or is already on the Services

To improve your experience when using the Services if you choose to share travel photos or schedule availability

Consent (users consent via device settings to authorize access to the user personal data)

Legitimate Interests:

Enabling users to find and connect with people they know

Enhancing user experience

Messages you send to and receive from other Services users

To enable you to easily communicate with other users while on the Services

Legitimate Interests:

Helping you connect with other Services users  

Other background, contact and demographic information

To improve your experience when using the Services if you choose to provide this information, including recommending users to follow, and topics that might be of interest to you

Legitimate Interests:

Personalizing your user experience by providing recommendations for content and Services features

Payment and transactional data

To authorize our payment processors to process your transactions

Contractual Necessity

Information collected from other Services Users

To improve your experience when using the Services and promote trust and safety while using the Services.

Legitimate Interests:

Improving and developing the Services

Information collected from third party services

To enable you to easily communicate and connect with other users while on the Services

Legitimate Interests:

Improving and developing the Services

Verification Data

To verify your identity

Legitimate Interests:

To help confirm your identity and enhance the chances of finding an host

Information Collected Automatically

To provide functionality, security, and for analytics and marketing purposes

Legitimate Interests:

Developing and improving the Services

Recipients of Data. We may disclose your personal data to the recipients described in the Sharing of Information section above.

Retention of Data. We keep your personal data for as long as you have a Couchsurfing account. To protect the safety and security of our users, your personal data will be retained for a reasonable period of time following account deletion or deactivation. To determine the appropriate retention period for your personal data, we consider the amount, nature, and sensitivity of the information, the potential risk of harm from unauthorized use or disclosure of your personal data, the purposes for which we process your personal data and whether we can achieve those purposes through other means, and the applicable legal requirements. We may delete the data by anonymizing it so it can no longer be associated with a user.

Storage. We are based in the United States and rely on cloud storage providers that store user data on our behalf in the United States. The United States may have data protection laws less stringent than or otherwise different from the laws in effect in Europe. We have taken measures to protect the confidentiality and security of your personal data, and your rights as a data subject.

Your Rights. The GDPR grants European data subjects the following rights:

  • Access. You can request a copy of the personal data that we maintain about you. If you require additional copies, we may need to charge a reasonable fee.
  • Deletion and Correction. You can ask us to delete or correct the personal data that we hold about you. We may retain your personal data as necessary for our legitimate business interests, such as fraud detection and prevention, and enhancing trust and safety. For example, if we suspend a Couchsurfing account for fraud or safety reasons, we may retain information from that account to prevent that member from opening a new account in the future.
  • Objection. You may have the right to object to how we use your personal data.
  • Restrict Processing. You may ask us to suspend our processing of your personal data, for example, if you want us to establish its accuracy or the reason for processing it.
  • Data Portability. If required to do so, we will give you your personal data in a structured, commonly used, and machine-readable format.

To exercise these rights, please email privacy@couchsurfing.com. You may also contact our representative using the contact information referenced in the Controller and Representative section above. You also have the right to complain to a data protection authority in your country about our processing of your personal data.