A number of my friends - myself included - have found themselves renting cottages and flats this summer, in an attempt to have a break at home, rather than a hotel stay abroad.
It’s really common to find a smart device or two in these rental properties. Or at the very least…a wi-fi connection. Hosts are in a tricky place here: would you go and stay somewhere without wi-fi? I wouldn’t. But…does that mean that I want to have an Alexa or log into a Smart TV?
Here are some thoughts about how hosts could balance the desire for nice shiny tech with the fact that they suck up so much information about those who use them.
1 Tell your guests
Airbnb’s rules about security cameras and other recording devices in listings say that you have to tell your guests if you have a surveillance device in your home. They list security cameras, nannycams, even smartphones. It doesn’t explicitly mention voice controlled assistants or smart TVs (both of which do have microphones and/or cameras in). So, at the very least, mention there is tech in your property in your listing.
2 Turn it off
In conjunction with 1 - make sure smart devices are switched off when a new guest arrives. It shouldn’t be up to your guests to discover there’s an Alexa listening to them just in case they need it to make fart sounds or tell them the weather. It should be up to them to decide they want to use it and to switch it on actively….and linked to this…
3 Log it out (or create house accounts)
IoT/smart devices are not currently very well designed for multiple users. They often require specific users to log in and all the data collected will be as if just that one person (or few people associated with the account) is generating it all. You should want your guests to log in with their own accounts. And then to log out again when they leave (you should check for this after they leave, and log them out without hesitation OR snooping). Or, in certain cases (like Smart TVs), you might want to consider whether to create an account for the TV for whichever streaming services are available - providing, of course, you have paid relevant taxes and tariffs (in the UK, for example, the Licence Fee), and it is allowed under the Terms of Service of the streaming service you’re using. And if you do set up a house account, delete the data associated with it regularly (and change the password - which should be unique - regularly too).
4 Change your router password after every guest
If you don’t do this, everyone that ever stays in your property will be able to log into the wi-fi when they can pick it up on a device (inside or out). Most people wouldn’t think twice about this, which makes it…not ideal. Change the password regularly. Ideally after every guest, but otherwise regularly (monthly, say).
5 Do you really need it?
There are some devices that could be really beneficial for your stay. Wi-fi is necessary, sure….but is a voice assistant? What do people really use it for? Will they miss it if it’s not there? Are there devices you could set up where guests could use a guest mode instead of connecting directly (such as a Chromecast instead of a full-on smart TV)?
6 …if you do really need it…
If you decide you do really need it, maybe consider putting together a very straight-forward walk through document for guests, telling them how they can use the device (particularly how to log in and out), how they can delete their data, and how they can use the device without logging in (if that’s possible).
Got any other thoughts? E-mail me if there’s something I’ve missed.