New York City’s fight for Airbnb user data

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New York City’s fight for Airbnb user data

The ongoing legal battle between city officials and the home-sharing company continues.
May 22, 2019

New York City officials and the home-sharing platform Airbnb have been locked in a multi-pronged legal fight for months, as the city attempts to crack down on the spread of illegal, de-facto hotels. In January, Airbnb successfully fought off the implementation of a law that would have required short-term rental companies to disclose to the city details about their hosts and the units they rent, on the grounds that putting the burden on companies like Airbnb to disclose that data would likely violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

But as in any protracted confrontation, one side rarely stay on top for long: The city has scored a partial win in the latest court ruling on Airbnb’s user data. Separate from the City Council law, the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement issued a subpoena to Airbnb last June, demanding user data from some of its listings as part of an investigation into illegal short-term rentals. Now, nearly a year later, a Manhattan Supreme Court ruled that the company has to comply with the subpoenas – at least in part. Of the hosts on whom the city originally requested data, at least 29 were determined to have listed apartments on the site – but never actually rented them out. The court decided that it would privately review records to determine whether those hosts are relevant to the OSE probe.

While this will hardly be the last battle between city officials and the home-sharing industry, an Airbnb spokeswoman told the Daily News that the company is pleased with the amended terms of the subpoena. “We are pleased that the court recognized the need to protect our users’ privacy rights in this matter,” she said.

For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.

Annie McDonough
Annie McDonough
is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.
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