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Airbnb to hand over anonymous host data to New York AG

The online vacation rental service makes deal to disclose masked data on hosts and root out "bad actors."


Airbnb, the startup that enables consumers to turn their homes into vacation rentals, will hand over "anonymized data" on thousands of New York hosts to the state's attorney general, part of a deal with his office to root out bad actors and avert a subpoena.

The dispute highlights the friction between new online forms of commerce and the institutionalized industries that it disrupts, with unwitting consumers -- in this case, well-intentioned Airbnb hosts -- caught in the middle at risk of becoming collateral damage.

"We now believe we have reached an agreement that will protect the privacy of thousands of Airbnb hosts, while allowing the Attorney General to investigate bad actors and move us forward," the company said.

In October, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a subpoena requesting Airbnb divulge three years' worth of data on thousands of New York hosts. The company has said it will cooperate with New York lawmakers to root out illegal hotel operators and slumlords, but it won't turn over sweeping amounts of information. When the subpoena was quashed, Schneiderman filed a second, narrower one.

The deal with Schneiderman averts the second subpoena.

Under the deal:

  • Airbnb will provide the AG with "anonymized data" about hosts in New York. This data will not include names, addresses, or other personally identifiable information.
  • Schneiderman's office will have one year to review the anonymized data and receive information about individual hosts who may be subject to further investigation.
  • Airbnb will provide even more information to hosts about the laws in New York. Hosts will see additional information before they list their space and Airbnb will email every host in New York with information about the law.

The company said it believes the the office is focused "on large corporate property managers and hosts who take apartments off the market and disrupt communities."

"We have already removed more than 2,000 listings in New York and believe that many of the hosts the Attorney General is concerned about are no longer a part of Airbnb," it said.