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Airbnb Turns Over Data on Top New York City Hosts to State Attorney General

Aug 23, 2014 10:00 am

Skift Take

Airbnb’s statement is disingenuous at best. Many of the hosts wiped out in this spring’s purge and who have now been turned over to the AG were top-rated ones who had been operating for years with the company’s full knowledge and support.

— Jason Clampet

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Airbnb Inc. said it is giving the New York attorney general information on 124 of its current and past hosts, following an agreement to comply with a state probe over who may be violating occupancy and tax regulations.

The San Francisco-based Web startup, which operates a short-term home rental service for travelers, said on its website today that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office had requested “unredacted, personal information” on the 124 hosts, most of whom are no longer on the site.

The requests are for less than 1 percent of the company’s New York hosting community, David Hantman, Airbnb’s head of global public policy, wrote in a blog post. The attorney general is only looking at individuals “who may be flagrantly misusing our platform,” he added.

Airbnb’s disclosure follows the May agreement between the company and the attorney general over the probe. Airbnb said it would comply with handing over information about its New York hosts on an anonymous basis, and also said it would furnish identifying details later for people deemed to be subjects of the probe.

More on Airbnb in New York City:

The agreement let Schneiderman’s office move forward with an investigation of what he described as illegal hotels, accommodations that violate a state law generally prohibiting spot rentals of entire homes.

Airbnb, said to be valued at $10 billion under a financing deal with TPG Capital, has been criticized by affordable housing advocates who say it drives up rents, particularly in cities where living space is scarce and housing costs high. Supporters of the company’s model say it boosts local economies, partly by attracting travelers who might not stay at hotels.

Airbnb initially resisted Schneiderman’s investigation, which it called a “government-sponsored fishing expedition,” and won a ruling from a New York state judge blocking a previously-issued subpoena as overly broad. The attorney general’s office subsequently served the company with a revised version.

Liz DeBold, a spokeswoman for Schneiderman’s office, declined to comment on Airbnb’s post.

To contact the reporters on this story: Pui-Wing Tam in San Francisco at ptam13@bloomberg.net; Christie Smythe in Brooklyn at csmythe1@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Pui-Wing Tam at ptam13@bloomberg.net; Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net. 

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