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Airbnb files motion to block New York AG's subpoena

The rent-out-your-home service vows to fight the state's subpoena requesting troves of user data saying it's a "government-sponsored fishing expedition" and "unreasonably broad."

Screenshot by Donna Tam/CNET

It appears that Airbnb is going to bat for its New York City hosts; the rent-out-your-home service has filed a motion objecting to the state's recent subpoena asking for troves of host data.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed the subpoena last Friday requesting that Airbnb divulge three years' worth of data on thousands of New York hosts. While Airbnb has said that it will cooperate with New York's lawmakers to root out illegal hotel operators and slumlords, its motion stated that it won't turn over sweeping amounts of information on hosts who have done no wrong.

"We made it clear to the Attorney General's office from the very beginning that we would never agree to this type of government-sponsored fishing expedition," Airbnb's head of global public policy, David Hantman, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. "We believe this subpoena as written is unreasonably broad, and we remain committed to fighting it with everything we've got."

Schneiderman's subpoena is based on a 2011 New York state law that makes it illegal for New York residents to rent out a property for less than 29 days. The law is meant to protect renters, so that slumlords don't force them to leave to make a quick buck on unlicensed hotels and short-term stays.

The crux of the issue with Airbnb appears to be so-called bad actors, who have slumlord-like tendencies, such as finding short-term rentals and avoiding paying taxes.

Airbnb said that it has 225,000 community members in New York, but the Attorney General's office is specifically looking for data on 15,000 hosts. However, Airbnb said that not all of these hosts are "bad actors."

"We share the goal of fighting illegal hotel operators and slumlords who have never been part of our vision and have no place on Airbnb," Hantman wrote. "And we want to do more to help make New York and the Airbnb community even stronger. That includes working with the city and state to collect taxes, weed out bad actors proactively, and help handle complaints from neighbors with a dedicated hotline."

It's now up to the judge to make the call on Schneiderman's subpoena and Airbnb's motion. Airbnb said that during that time it hopes to continue to work with the Attorney General's office.

CNET contacted the New York Attorney General's office for comment. We'll update this story when we get more information.