Airbnb to give anonymous user data to New York authorities

Settling a months-long dispute, popular rental service Airbnb struck a deal Wednesday with New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to relinquish anonymous data of 225,000 hosts to help target “bad actors” that continue to abuse the local housing system.

The company agreed to provide the attorney general with users’ records, while redacting names, addresses and personal data, to help weed out illegal hotels and scammers breaking New York housing laws. Currently, local residents cannot rent out an entire apartment for fewer than 30 days if they are not presently occupying that site. But Airbnb hosts have notoriously broken this law, leading to the removal of more than 2,000 online rental listings.

Image courtesy of Airbnb

Image courtesy of Airbnb

The Attorney General’s office and other opponents agree that having frequent apartment users brings up questions about safety regulations and quality of life at these locations. Schneiderman also said that the rental website has enabled illegal activity that has allowed users to fall for housing scams. With stories of landlords evicting tenants from rent-regulated apartments to offer residency to users unregulated online, authorities believed that, without legal action, scammers will take advantage of the system.

Other U.S. cities have had their own complaints about the website and the legality of the rental listings, including San Francisco, the company’s home city. To protect tenants from potential abusive landlords, Schneiderman told The New York Times that he believed that the deal was “a template for other places in the country where the issue has been raised.”

While Airbnb has agreed to these terms, public policy head David Hantman has stated in a blog post that they believe the current law is preventing users from engaging in apartment hosting, and they need to communicate to authorities the importance of their business practice.

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