Airbnb Agrees To Hand Over Some User Info To NY Attorney General

airbnbnycThere’s been yet another development in the ongoing battle between Airbnb and the state of New York, with the online home rental service agreeing to turn over some data about its customers to the state’s Attorney General, but not to the extent that a subpoena from the AG’s office had originally sought.

The subpoena saga goes back to last October, when NY AG Eric Schneiderman issued a subpoena seeking a wide swath of data on 15,000 users in the New York City area.

The data requested in that subpoena included the physical and e-mail addresses of users, dates of guest stays and how much money hosts earned for those rentals. Airbnb argued that the subpoena was overly broad and that some of the data being requested was immaterial to questions of whether or not Airbnb users were violating NYC tax and hotel laws.

Last week, a court in Albany sided with Airbnb, while also saying it appeared there were a “substantial” number of Airbnb hosts that may be in violation of the law.

The AG’s office immediately issued a new subpoena that hoped to answer the court’s concerns about the overly broad version issued in last fall, but today both Schneiderman and Airbnb announced an agreement that would turn over information that is materially relevant to the investigation without revealing information about individual users.

According to the agreement [PDF], information turned over to Schneiderman’s office will be anonymized by redacting names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, social media account info, user names, host IDs, listing IDs, apartment numbers, Social Security numbers, tax ID numbers, amounts paid, account numbers, codes, security questions, password info.

However, if the AG or the NYC Office of Special Enforcement choose to investigate specific parties, Airbnb will provide these authorities with the above information for the particular users being looked into.

So on the one hand, Airbnb isn’t being forced to hand over all relevant and sensitive info for thousands of customers; on the other, the state and city’s attempted crackdown on the rental service will continue.

“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,” reads a joint statement about the deal. “The arrangement we have reached today for compliance with the OAG subpoena strikes this balance.”

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