Airbnb fights back after being subpoenaed by the New York Attorney General

Call it Airbnb vs. New York, Round Two. 

Living-space sharing platform Airbnb fought back after being subpoenaed by the New York Attorney General to hand over records of its users in New York.

The Attorney General’s office is subpoenaing the data in order to target people running illegal hotels. Airbnb responded by filing a motion in the New York Supreme Court yesterday, objecting to the broad reach of the demands, saying that the majority of the users are just ordinary people who occasionally share their homes.

In a statement, Airbnb’s head of public policy David Hantman said,

“The subpoena issued by the Attorney General last Friday goes well
beyond bad actors and demands information about thousands of regular
Airbnb hosts in New York. So, we made it clear to the Attorney General’s
office from the very beginning that we would never agree to this type
of government-sponsored fishing expedition. “

Airbnb has pledged not just to protect its user data, but is working with lawmakers to modify the law under which so many of its users have been targeted. Here’s what Hantman said in a blog post about the situation:

While our community was growing, New York City was
grappling with a real problem: illegal hotels. Blocks of apartments and
even entire buildings were being bought up, taken off the housing market
and used as unlicensed hotels. Even worse, scores of New Yorkers were
being evicted from the places they had called home for decades so
unscrupulous slumlords could make a quick buck. It was wrong. And it was
the exact opposite of everything we stand for.

As you know, New York passed a law to crack down on that
problem. The intent of the law was noble and we have not argued for its
complete repeal—far from it. But we’ve long been concerned that it could
be used to unfairly punish members of the Airbnb community who simply
want to share the home in which they live. That’s why we have a
dedicated team working in New York City and Albany to try and change the
part of this law that is too broad and goes after regular people trying
to make ends meet.

This is a pretty serious regulatory challenge to Airbnb, New York is a huge market and fighting with the state’s Attorney General could get it entangled in a long, costly legal battle, that may encourage other local governments to take action as well. This isn’t the first time Airbnb has tussled with the government. Earlier in the year, one of its users was fined by a local city board for renting out his apartment to tourists. Airbnb helped pay for the user’s legal expenses and helped overturn the decision.

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