Airbnb and the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced this morning that they’ve come to an agreement around the AG’s subpoena seeking the records of Airbnb’s New York hosts. The company says it will be sharing host data as requested, but with any personally identifiable information removed.
The agreement appears to end the legal back-and-forth between the peer-to-peer lodging marketplace and the AG’s office, at least for now. Airbnb was first subpoenaed last fall. Airbnb argued that the request was overly broad, and the State Supreme Court appeared to side with the company in a decision last week. But a new subpoena promptly followed, with the AG’s office arguing that the judge had largely rejected Airbnb’s arguments except on a “a narrow technical issue.”
In a blog post, Airbnb also said the judge was likely to accept the new subpoena. Hence the current agreement, which the company summarized thusly:
Airbnb will provide the Attorney General with anonymized data about our hosts in New York. This data will not include names, addresses or other personally-identifiable information.
The Attorney General’s Office will have one year to review the anonymized data and receive information from us about individual hosts who may be subject to further investigation. We believe the Attorney General’s Office is focused on large corporate property managers and hosts who take apartments off the market and disrupt communities. We have already removed more than 2,000 listings in New York and believe that many of the hosts the Attorney General is concerned about are no longer a part of Airbnb.
We will provide even more information to hosts about the laws in New York. Hosts will see additional information before they list their space and we’ll email every host in New York with information about the law.
In a statement, the Attorney General’s Office said:
Airbnb and the Office of the Attorney General have worked tirelessly over the past six months to come to an agreement that appropriately balances Attorney General Schneiderman’s commitment to protecting New York’s residents and tourists from illegal hotels with Airbnb’s concerns about the privacy of thousands of other hosts. The arrangement we have reached today for compliance with the OAG subpoena strikes this balance.
Update: It looks like the data might not as quite as anonymized as we’d initially thought. If you read the agreement (specifically point 2), you’ll notice that it mentions removing unit and apartments numbers, but not the full address. Since we’re talking about New York City, removing the apartment number should mostly grant a degree of anonymity, but it still seems a little odd for Airbnb to say that it will be removing addresses.
I’ve emailed the company for clarification and will update if I hear back. I’ve also removed “anonymized” from the headline because I don’t think I want to get into a debate about whether this is fully anonymous.
It’s also probably worth noting that Schneiderman elaborated on his goals in an interview with the Associated Press: “”We are going to pursue anyone who’s running illegal hotels.”
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