A Traveller’s Guide To Safe Stay-cations: Safeguarding Your Privacy in Third-Party Rental Homes

ByAfif Azhar

The article attributed to: Glenn Wong, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of COBNB

When you’re geared up to relax at a holiday home, the last thing you expect is an invasion of privacy. Sadly, hidden cameras and security breaches lurking in third-party rental accommodations are an unfortunate reality, as seen with the recent upswing of privacy invasion incidents at third-party rentals — the most recent being an unsavoury incident in Jelutong, Penang.

Concern about potential safety risks at third-party rentals has never been higher. However, while there are regulations in place to mitigate such risks, some unscrupulous hosts are still attempting to circumvent the law. Going beyond security concerns, acts such as this are a violation of personal space can leave travellers feeling not just exposed, but profoundly traumatised. Recognizing the adage that prevention is better than cure while acknowledging the existence of articles on self-protection in similar scenarios, our goal is to enhance the current repository of knowledge and resources. On that note, here are some suggestions that could go a long way in helping you ensure a safe stay-cation while staying in third-party rental homes.

Start With Research
To start with, host and operator vetting is a must. Conduct thorough research on your hosts-to-be, particularly through reviews, their hosting history, and — where possible — the reputation of the operators. The term operator here refers to a separate, third-party entity which manages bookings and other services for a home stay, and helps connect hosts to potential guests, and vice versa. More than an idea of what to expect, by going through old reviews, you also get the opportunity to note any potential red flags and narrow down a safer, more ideal residence. It also helps to take note of those who came before you, which is why you should be sure to check out reviews by former guests. In particular, pay close attention to previous guests’ experiences, especially regarding privacy concerns. Their feedback can offer valuable insights into the host’s respect for guests’ privacy.

Stay Secure

It’s also a good idea to opt for verified listings, instead of wandering off the beaten path. Choose listings with verified profiles and clear photos. Verified hosts are more likely to adhere to platform standards, reducing the risk of unauthorised surveillance and granting you more peace of mind during your vacation. It may also be a good idea to familiarise yourself with common signs of hidden cameras, such as small lenses or unusual blinking lights, etc. Hints like these could go a long way in identifying potential privacy threats.

Additionally, simply exercising constant vigilance and prioritising security measures can go a long way towards protecting yourself on holiday. As tempting as it is to just kick back and relax when you reach your destination, upon arrival your first move should be to carefully inspect the premises, firstly for any suspicious objects or irregularities, and to establish existing security arrangements. If possible, look for accommodations equipped with security features such as lockboxes, or limiting access to authorised people (a move which goes a long way towards deterring potential intrusions.)

Trust Your Gut

As the recent incidents have shown us, an unscrupulous mind will use anything to invade your privacy — from the more commonplace bedside spycams to, as one unfortunate vacation-goer discovered, hidden devices in air fresheners, and humidifiers. On the chance that something feels amiss or unsettling, trust your instincts. Report your concerns to the platform, authorities, and relevant privacy protection agencies as soon as you can, and consider seeking alternative accommodations, especially if you suspect any ongoing breaches of privacy. Remember that at the end of the day, your safety and privacy should always come first.

In the evolving landscape of home-sharing, regulation and awareness are pivotal in ensuring the safety and well-being of travellers. By advocating for stricter measures and staying vigilant, we can foster an environment of trust and security in the hospitality industry. Together, we can champion transparency and accountability in third-party rental homes.

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