Airbnb wasn't kidding around when it said it would do everything in its power to fight the good fight to protect the privacy of its users in New York City. This afternoon, the startup took that fight to court.
The latest leg of the Airbnb v. Big Apple legal tryst came on Monday, when New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed the company to hand over three years' worth of user data for all the New Yorkers that have their apartments listed for rent on the site.
The Attorney General required the company to either provide the user data or respond in court by today. Airbnb refused to comply. CEO Brian Chesky wrote on the site that the demand was "unreasonably broad" and they planned to "fight it with everything we’ve got.”
Today the startup made good on that promise, filing a motion with the New York State Supreme Court objecting to the AG's “sweeping” demands, a spokesperson told me over email.
The city is battling the startup for breaking local laws against operating an illegal hotel out of your home, worried that hustlers and slumlords are abusing the online service to turn a profit.
The user data it's soliciting could reveal details that determine which listings are breaking the law—which about half currently are. But according to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, 87 percent of hosts in New York are just renting out rooms in their homes, not running a sketchy operation.
Airbnb’s been updating its public policy blog with as the legal fight unfolds. It wrote today that it wants to work with New York to weed out bad actors, but not at the cost of violating user privacy.
The subpoena issued by the Attorney General last Friday goes well beyond bad actors and demands information about thousands of regular Airbnb hosts in New York. So, 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.
Next step, a judge will rule on the motion. In the meantime, the company hopes to find a legal middle ground where it can operate legally and set a new precedent for the sharing economy.
“We have a dedicated team working in New York City and Albany to try and change the part of this law that is too broad and goes after regular people trying to make ends meet,” the company wrote. “We know that someday, demands like this and the bad laws that make them possible will cease to exist.”