1. Economics
September 3, 2014

Airbnb hosts are suing the company for handing their data to the New York authorities

By City Monitor Staff

The fairytale of easy accommodation for visitors and easy money for their hosts has hit another stumbling block: Airbnb is being sued for breach of privacy, after it released data on 124 of its hosts to the state authorities.

Airbnb released the details after striking a deal with Eric Schneiderman, New York’s Attorney General, back in May. Scheiderman originally demanded full access to 16,000 hosts’ data as part of a crackdown on illegal hotels, but the company talked him into accepting anonymised records, so he could select a much smaller group to see in full.

In August, the company announced in a blogpost that they’d be releasing the unredacted details of 124 hosts to the AG:

The vast majority of these hosts were no longer on our site. The remainder of records requested are all for hosts with multiple listings, and without knowing more about why the Attorney General is interested in those hosts specifically, it is hard to know why they have been targeted.”

An anonymous source told Mashable that the city now has access to the hosts’ names, contact information, host and listing IDs, and rental and payment information.

The hosts aren’t happy: 21 of them have formed the anonymous group “New Yorkers Making Ends Meet in the Sharing Economy”, which filed their suit against Airbnb at the New York Supreme Court on 2 September. Airbnb have said they won’t release these hosts’ data to the city until the case has been resolved; they’ll still hand over the remaining 103.

Companies making the most of the “sharing economy” have, in general, had a rocky year. Uber’s UberPop ridesharing service has just been banned in Germany; while Airbnb has faced problems with illegal hotels, squatters, and investigations by city authorities around the world. The firm also launched a new logo, which bore more than a passing resemblance to another company’s branding:

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Today, Airbnb published a set of poll results on their blog confirming that “the majority of New Yorkers support home sharing and believe they should be able to share the home in which they live”. Let’s hope the Attorney General is reading.

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