Airbnb bristles at New York AG subpoena in 'bad actors' battle

The rent-out-your-home service says that the attorney general's request for user data will not be taken lightly, and that it will fight for its community.

Brian Chesky on "CBS This Morning."
CEO Brian Chesky says Airbnb wants to help root 'bad actors' out of its community. CBS

Airbnb, the social service that provides an in-home alternative to hotels, is under fire from the New York Attorney General's Office.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has subpoenaed data on all Airbnb users in New York who have offered to rent out their homes to customers. According to a person familiar with the investigation, Schneiderman's effort stems from a New York state law signed in 2010 that places limits on residents' ability to rent out their homes to others.

Airbnb, which helps people rent out their houses or apartments for a period of time, said last week that it has 225,000 community members in New York.

The Attorney General's office has been investigating Airbnb for more than a month, a person familiar with the investigation told CNET. The investigation stemmed from complaints by lawmakers and housing advocates.

The crux of the issue appears to be so-called "bad actors" who find short-term rentals and run amok, according to a person familiar with the investigation. Some of those renters could be sidestepping paying taxes, the person indicated.

In addition, the attorney general's office wants to target those who are renting out multiple units in violation of state law or who are renting out their properties for longer than expressly allowed under the state's tax laws, a person familiar with the investigation said. A person who is simply trying to rent out their units every now and then -- a so-called "casual user" -- will not be targeted in the investigation, according to the person.

In its statement on the matter, Airbnb said that it agrees that "bad actors" are an issue, and indicated that it believes the attorney general's office "is only seeking to target an incredibly small number of bad actors who abuse the Airbnb platform."

Despite that cooperation, Airbnb bristled a bit at the subpoena, indicating that the attorney general's office wants access to all New York-based short-term renters on the company's service, despite plans to go after those bad actors. Airbnb wants to work with the attorney general to weed out the troublesome renters and keep the rest of its data secure and outside the prying eyes of lawmakers.

"We are confident we can reach a solution that protects your personal information and cracks down on people who abuse the system," Airbnb said today in a statement.

The Attorney General's legal action is just the latest issue Airbnb has faced over the last year . The company has been targeted by governments far and wide over its service, which some say, hurts the hotel business. Airbnb argues that such claims only serve to cater to " entrenched interests ," and believes that its service is actually helping the hospitality industry, not hurting it.

The New York Attorney General's office declined CNET's request for comment on the matter.

About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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