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It was like ‘Big Brother’, someone saw us and listened: What do you do when there are cameras on AirBnb | technology


Juan Pablo Garcia and nine other colleagues are studying for a master’s degree 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,” says Garcia, 33, via videoconference with EL PAÍS is from Santa Fe County where he lives. It was September and they paid €1,621 for three nights in a villa in Saavedra, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. In an AirBnb ad

Juan Pablo Garcia’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 not in the bedrooms?” Carmen immediately replied: “They are at the entrance and behind the house, for security reasons. 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 home to dinner, two more than Carmen’s rules would allow. In addition, because of the noise, a neighbor complained to Carmen, writing to Garcia: “My neighbor called me there was noise in the barbecue area. More people entered the house, there are cameras,” he wrote on WhatsApp. Not just this. Carmen also told him the next morning that she heard something strange: “In the videos you hear something about ‘cutting the power’, which is why I was very surprised,” she wrote.

That was when Juan Pablo Garcia and his friends began to speculate. “It was kind of a joke. Nobody was going to cut anything. But it caught my eye: is he listening to us? I said not to do anything else because we’re going to have a real quilombo,” he says. “Barbecue is not a ‘intimate’ place. It’s not for homeland security. It’s in the middle of the grill.”

Portrait of Juan Pablo Garcia where the camera of the house can be seen.
Portrait of Juan Pablo Garcia where the camera of the house can be seen.

A few years ago, there were viral videos on the networks about alleged hidden cameras in apartments, rooms and changing rooms. Spanish police confirmed to EL PAÍS only two cases with their intervention: one in the bathrooms of a bar in Mallorca and the other in the dressing room in Malaga. For its part, AirBnb has strict rules about cameras: the host must notify and there can be no hidden cameras or in intimate places, such as bathrooms or rooms. But here a wide gray spreads. The cameras in Villa Carmen are definitely not hidden. One is at the door and focuses on who is entering. But the other is on the balcony, above the table where the barbecue is taken and focuses on the pool. It also allows you to see the side walls. So it was ‘safe’, but it allowed to see more things inside. Not only seeing them, but also hearing them.

Carmen attended EL PAÍS insisting that AirBnb has agreed with her, as she is also a super hostess: “I’ve only had problems with Juan Pablo. I’ve also had a temporary rental agency for 20 years. You don’t talk to someone who put the camera in the wrong place.”

camera effect

The dangers of a camera in a legitimate apartment go beyond. Everyone involved knows this. That’s why AirBnb asks to be notified, Carmen does, and even a renter like Juan Pablo Garcia is surprised by the intrusion which, he says, means being constantly monitored by someone outside. The second time he heard them was when he came back from a party the other night: “We went out to dance. On the way back, a half-drunk guy, at one party, saw the blue camera, which we later learned to turn on when he listened to you, and said ‘Oh, Carmencita, you’re She listens to us,” Garcia says. “It was a comment making fun of us, it’s five in the morning and the girl sees the house, like a older brother, listen. It wasn’t anything more than that, and we said “we didn’t do anything to you at home, we didn’t break any rules and you’re here listening to us,” he adds.

The cameras are already intrusive with the image only. The sound unusually elevates this feeling. “In Spain, it is forbidden for police cameras to record audio on the street and also in workplaces,” says lawyer Jorge García Herrero, who specializes in data protection. But for Carmen it was natural: “I don’t understand controversy. I have to take care of my property and videos have sound. Cameras have sound, I wouldn’t buy a camera without sound.”

Carmen defends her position on the cameras with three arguments: in addition to clarity of advertising and direct communication with the tenant, she has two more. First, the state and its economic investments: I have cameras in other properties, of course. Do you know Argentina I am Argentine, imagine. One of the neighbors of the house is a well-known politician, Roberto Lavagna, who is a presidential candidate. There are cameras on the street. They all have cameras. You have invested a lot of money. They can have this behavior in a house on the coast with carob furniture. But my house has a lot of fancy things and it matches the audience I’m aiming for,” he explains.

Second, a client who always wants privacy can choose another home: “If you want privacy at all, don’t rent a house with cameras. I’m not impromptu, and I’m not interested in a tenant’s privacy.

It’s hard to think of how a remotely controlled camera (Carmen lives in Germany) could restrict privacy, until you test it. This is how Juan Pablo García’s friends felt: “There are many married men, we can invite girls or go with them. They were private things. We started saying, be careful what we say!”, he says.

Despite her priorities, Carmen also acknowledges the sensitivity required to run a camera that can see what’s going on inside the dwelling: “With the rear camera, I don’t have the alarm. [que la avisa cuando hay movimiento, como sí ocurre con la de la entrada]. Even though there was a camera there, I turned it off. I don’t shoot videos there. I’m going crazy with the phone and not interested in photographing what’s there, except for a few particular issues. Like when the neighbors complain about making noise after 10 at night with the famous barbecue. If there’s something specific, I look at the camera,” he says. He only turns it on when some of the tenants create a quarrel. In one of the messages to Garcia, he actually warned him that he doesn’t usually rent out “to locals for security reasons,” and added, “That’s why I hope Not to plan anything that threatens the house.”

Juan Pablo García is an industrial engineer and with his friends is a prestigious MBA student in Argentina. At his age, he was not used to being accused of wanting to flood a house that cost them more than 1,600 euros for three nights. He told his case on Twitter, where there were versions of all kinds. When EL PAS contacted Carmen, she did not know that her case was public. An account for discussion has also been created on the social network.

Best to report

What would a lawyer do in a case like this? Report, says Spanish lawyer Jorge Garcia Herrero, who specializes in data protection. Although I would have done it with a little certainty: “If I were the lawyer, I would say what no one likes to hear about their case: ‘It depends.’ But if you told me I could choose whom to defend with whom I saw more options to win, I would stand On the side of the tenant without a doubt.”

Although AirBnb is enough to report in the ad, something not everyone sees, García Herrero thinks there should be something else: “When you report in the ad description, you do a part, but that will only mitigate Punishment. When you put the cameras on, you have to put up the famous little yellow banner and it’s very special. It greatly affects your privacy. It’s very racist. In data protection, the key is proportionality.” At home there is a Prosegur tag near the camera, but in the advertisement photos on AirBnb the camera can’t be seen.

Juan Pablo Garcia also considered taking his case to lawyers, but eventually gave up. In addition to fearing the cameras, Juan Pablo and Carmen argue about when to leave and how they left the house: “When I was leaving, I told her ‘Look, Carmen, the house is so beautiful, but we had a good time’. Damn itWith recording private conversations. This is where we got into the exchange, but I didn’t want to make a mess on AirBnb. There might have been some regular dirt, but we left everything perfectly tidy, being 30, not 20, we were going to demolish the house, no way. Nothing was missing, nobody stole anything, and the girl has a thousand accessories,” she explains.

Carmen saw it differently: “Give me the house in a disastrous way. Dirty, messy, fat everywhere, they even beat me up. attachments Football figurines on the grill. I can’t believe people in their thirties with a master’s degree,” he explains. Between the alleged damage and a late departure, which was between a few minutes and an hour and something, according to accounts, Carmen demanded more than an additional 600 euros, according to Garcia’s calculations, which he did not pay.

But AirBnb has had a restrictive policy on parties for a few years now. Carmen provided evidence, allegedly thanks to the camera, and AirBnb canceled Juan Pablo Garcia’s account. The motive was to organize a party without permission. This newspaper asked the platform, which confirms much of the case in this statement: “Airbnb has very strict policies regarding the use of any type of recording device in advertisements. In the rare cases where these rules are not met, the platform acts immediately by following these rules. Incidents Its an occasional Airbnb, and the community support team is working around the clock to help solve it.”

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