Juan Pablo García, 33, and nine other colleagues are studying for a master’s degree in engineering in Buenos Aires (Argentina). They are from the interior of the country and every three weeks they go to the capital for a few days to go to classes: “We always rented separately, but this time we all wanted to go to a nice house together,” García says by videoconference to EL PAÍS from the province of Santa Fe, where he lives. It was in September and they paid 1,621 euros for three nights in a villa in Saavedra, one of the richest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. In the AirBnb ad , however, there was something that worried Juan Pablo: the residence had “a security camera system.”
Juan Pablo García’s fear led him to write to the owner, Carmen Liliana, via WhatsApp: “Are they at the entrance or are they filming you inside? Or inside and in the bedrooms no?” she asked. Carmen responded immediately: “They are at the entrance and at the back of the house, it is for security. There are no cameras inside, don’t worry.” But it wasn’t that simple.
The first night they prepared a barbecue. Four more people went to the house for dinner, exceeding by two those allowed by Carmen’s rules. In addition, a neighbor complained to Carmen about the noise. The owner then wrote to García on WhatsApp: “My neighbor called me that there is noise in the grill area. More people entered the house, there are the cameras”. Not only that. The next morning, Carmen also told him that she had heard something strange: “In the videos you hear something about ‘cutting off the power,’ that’s why I was very surprised,” she wrote.
That is when Juan Pablo García and his friends began to speculate. “It was kind of a joke. No one was going to cut anything. But it caught my attention: is he listening to us? I said not to do anything else because we are going to have a real quilombo”, he says. “The grill is not a ‘non-intimate’ place. It’s not for home security. It’s in the middle of the grill,” he adds.
For a few years, there have been viral videos on networks about alleged hidden cameras in apartments, rooms and locker rooms. The Spanish Police have confirmed to EL PAÍS only two cases in which their intervention was necessary: one in the bathrooms of a bar in Mallorca and another in a dressing room in Malaga. A few days ago , a rumor spread through networks that there were cameras in the stores of the Primark clothing chain in the United Kingdom. The Irish company has denied this to EL PAÍS.
AirBnb, for its part, has strict rules about the use of cameras: the host must notify the client and there can be no hidden cameras in intimate places, such as bathrooms or bedrooms. But here a wide gray spreads; the cameras in Carmen’s villa are not really hidden. One is at the door and focuses on whoever enters. But the other one is on a terrace, above the table where the guests eat and it focuses on the pool. It also allows you to see the side walls. So it was “security”, but it allowed to see more things inside. Not only see them, but also hear them.