Airbnb agrees to share anonymised data with New York attorney general

21 May 2014

After receiving a second subpoena, hospitality e-commerce site Airbnb has agreed to provide host data – without personally identifiable information – to the New York State Attorney General (AG).

Airbnb’s global head of public policy David Hantman said the company believes the agreement appropriately balances the AG’s objective of going after illegal hotels.

Airbnb, which is creating 200 jobs in Dublin, allows property owners to rent their property to members of the Airbnb community.

“It took a long time to reach this agreement, with lots of hard work on both sides, and I want to make sure you heard from me about how we got here, what we believe, and what this means for our community in New York,” Hantman said.

He said the company received a demand for the data last autumn but felt it was too broad. What followed was months of discussion, with Airbnb attempting to resolve the matter without turning over data on its community.

It challenged the subpoena in the New York State Supreme Court.

Last week, a judge in Albany, New York, made it clear he would accept a new, narrower subpoena, which was subsequently issued by the AG the following day.

Protecting the privacy of Airbnb hosts

“We wanted to do everything we could to avoid turning over data on thousands of regular New Yorkers, so we continued to work with the attorney general’s office and 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.”

Airbnb will provide the AG with anonymised data about hosts in New York, that won’t include names, addresses or other identifiable information.

The AG will have a year to review the data and enquire for more information.

It is understood the AG is attempting to clamp down on hosts who take apartments off the market and in doing so 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,” Hantman said.

“We are committed to working with leaders in New York and around the world to ensure they know more about home-sharing and how it makes neighbourhoods better places to live, work and visit,” he added.

New York window image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years