Airbnb hands over personal data on 124 New York hosts

The New York attorney general wants more information on a handful of hosts that may be "flagrantly misusing" the platform.

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Airbnb

After months of squabbling, it seems Airbnb and the New York attorney general have made peace.

The online vacation rental service announced Friday that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman requested more information on 124 past and present hosts and it's giving him the data.

This low number seems to come as a relief to the startup, which has fought to keep its users' information private. Airbnb said the 124 hosts represent less than 1 percent of its New York community and the company believes Schneiderman doesn't want to gather mass data on its users but rather focus on hosts that may be "flagrantly misusing" the platform.

"The vast majority of our hosts are simply renting out their own homes on an occasional basis. The law was never meant to target them, and we now believe the attorney general did not mean to target regular New Yorkers either," Airbnb head of global public policy David Hantman wrote in a blog post.

The hubbub began last October when Schneiderman filed a subpoena requesting Airbnb divulge three years' worth of data on thousands of New York hosts. While reluctant to hand over the data, the company maintained it was willing to cooperate with New York lawmakers to root out illegal hotel operators and slumlords. In what appeared to be a show of good faith, the service removed more than 2,000 listings in April.

In May, the subpoena was quashed and Schneiderman filed a second, narrower one. Shortly after, the company finally struck a deal with Schneiderman that averted the second subpoena. Under the deal Airbnb said it would provide the attorney general with "anonymized data" from approximately 16,000 hosts in New York and Schneiderman would have one year to review it. This data did not include names, addresses, or other personally identifiable information.

Schneiderman has now singled out 124 hosts from the original 16,000 from whom he wants "unredacted, personal" information. Airbnb said it's contacted these hosts to let them know of the attorney general's request. It's unclear if Schneiderman will request more information about other hosts in the coming months.

"After we reached this agreement and as this process continued, we became increasingly confident that the attorney general was truly concerned about a relatively small number of hosts he considered to be 'bad actors,' and that the vast majority of our community was never a target of his inquiries," Hantman wrote. "The vast majority of these [124] 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."

 

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