The legal battle between Airbnb and the City of New York has been seemingly unending, but the latest development is a total game changer, as it now involves every single Airbnb host. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued a subpoena for the rental site to release the data of all its hosts in New York, or about 225,000 users. Though the nature of the data Schneiderman is looking for remains unconfirmed, the amount of personal information a host is required to surrender as an Airbnb host is enough to cause concern. And according to the subpoena, approximately half of the site's listings are currently illegal.
The goal of this most recent legal action is to eradicate landlords who are turning a profit by using Airbnb. For example, some landlords are evicting tenants from their rent-controlled apartments in favor of the more lucrative Airbnb guests — like tourists. We can all agree that's not cool, but to require Airbnb to surrender all personal information for all hosts seems excessive, and unnecessary. Especially given the recent concerns about the government's relationship with our personal data. This is quite a blow to Airbnb, especially after its recent victory with Nigel Warren. Even after the ruling in Warren's favor, the site took the high road and mandated that hosts in NY pay the local hotel occupancy tax of $2 per day.
Though we're still waiting for Airbnb to formally respond to the subpoena, it seems the site is caught in a shade of grey currently uncovered by law. The government's intention — to weed out shady landlords — seems noble, but we can't help but think that, given the complicated nature of the situation, some innocent bystanders may be affected by this action as well. If the true mission here is to weed out landlords who are taking advantage of the system, why not release the personal data of just the landlords in Airbnb's system? As CEO Brian Chesky wrote, "We believe regular people renting out their own homes should be able to do so, and we need a new law that makes this clear.” (Motherboard)