This week New York State's attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman, succeeded in obtaining a subpoena for anonymized data on New York Airbnb hosts. Schneiderman recently targeted the housing-rental site stating that some hosts are "large, commercial enterprises with dozens of apartments - truly illegal hotels". This was Schneiderman's second attempt to get Airbnb records as the first deemed over-broad by a New York Supreme Court Justice. Schneiderman narrowed his focus and submitted a new subpoena the next day which was approved Wednesday.
The attorney will have a year to sort through the data and identify those in violation of local laws. Scheiderman has stated that he only plans to pursue anyone who's running illegal hotels. If his office finds something suspicious, Airbnb must identify the host. Airbnb's head of global public policy, David Hantman, called it "a strong agreement that best protects our community's data and sets us on a positive path forward."
So far, it looks like both parties are claiming this ruling a victory. We have yet to hear how NY hosts feel about the agreement. For many, inviting a stranger to stay in their home is much more comfortable than opening it up to regulators.
Schneiderman is one of many regulators keeping their eye on the digital economy. He announced his intentions for sites like Airbnb and Uber in a press release last month:
Regulators should not be deterred and, as a practical matter, they can’t and won’t be — we are now living in an online world, one that offers great promise but is also becoming one of the primary crime scenes of the 21st century. Major service providers cannot be allowed to treat it as a digital Wild West. The only question is how long it will take for these cybercowboys to realize that working with the sheriffs is both good business and the right thing to do.
Schneiderman claims that the deal was "a template for other places in the country where the issue has been raised."
Perhaps it will become a worldwide template as Airbnb was also in international news this week as one host ran into legal problems in France. A young man was found guilty of breaking his lease after subletting out his room in Paris for €450 ($613) a week. The man was ordered to pay € 2,842 ($3,872.79) in damages to his landlord.
The judgment – a first involving Airbnb in France – coincides with a wider crackdown by the French government and the Paris town hall on the flourishing market for letting rooms or whole apartments to tourists. It also coincides with the settlement of a legal battle between Airbnb and New York State, which could lead to the prosecution of thousands of people who have defied state laws and let rooms or flats to tourists.
We are curious to see how this plays out. What do you think? Is this an example of over regulation or did Airbnb have this coming? Check out Airbnb's Blog Post on the deal and let us know what you think.