Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
eric schneiderman, fishing expedition, ny

airbnb, cdt, eff

New York's Attorney General Shouldn't Be Able To Go On A Fishing Expedition Through AirBnB Hosts

from the that's-not-how-the-law-works dept

In an odd bit of timing, I happen to be writing this post in a nice studio apartment in Midtown Manhattan, which I was able to rent via AirBnB, which has turned out to be a great find. I'm in NYC for a conference and some meetings, and while the conference offered a "special rate" on a hotel, this better located, much nicer, full studio apartment was more than $100 cheaper per night. The owner is a really nice guy who's able to make some money renting out this apartment -- and he's legitimately worried that NY is going to shut this down. And yet, as we noted last month, NY's grandstanding attorney general (is there any other kind?), Eric Schneiderman, has demanded that AirBnB turn over information on every host in NY in an insane fishing trip. His office claims it's just looking for "bad" AirBnB users -- mainly those doing "long-term illegal rentals," but that shouldn't allow for a massive fishing trip into the activities of the 15,000 hosts in the state of NY.

The EFF and CDT have now filed an excellent brief arguing that Schneiderman has no right to this vast treasure trove of information.
"Indiscriminate subpoenas that seek the identity and other personal information of thousands of Internet users without specific justification are improper and should be quashed," EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman said. "It is not enough for the state to speculate that some Airbnb users might have broken some law at some unknown point. An online service's users deserve to be protected from fishing expeditions like this one."
In the brief, the groups argue that this is a threat to plenty of people's privacy.
While Airbnb has opposed the subpoena, innocent third parties should not have to rely on a company to protect their private interests.... The Attorney General has not curtailed its request to what it is legitimately entitled to receive, and this type of unfettered dragnet collection of user records should be denied.
Hopefully, the court will quash this overbroad subpoena, and NY will make it clear that merely renting out your place doesn't subject you to random fishing expeditions for information from the state's attorney general.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 12:39pm

    if he gets his way over this, what will the next 'fishing trip' seek to obtain? it could be anything and the more they get, the more they will want. it would turn out to be a localised version of NSA spying, and we all know what that was for!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Richard Ahlquist, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 12:45pm


    If he gets his way, his next fishing trip will be all the user info on reddit and 4chan.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 1:03pm

    When I saw the article title I thought NY Attorney General had been caught renting a place over AirBnB for a fishing trip vacation, while simultaneously condemning AirBnB and trying to shut it down.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    velox (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 1:26pm


    How could the owner of AirBnB have forgotten to take the NY AG on a nice marlin fishing expedition. Certainly this "little misunderstanding" would be all taken care of.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 1:37pm

    Would Eric Schneiderman still be the Attorney General if someone was allowed to trawl through all his financial information? If he is permitted this, the EFF should subpoena for all financial records of all elected officials as some will have broken the rules.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 1:44pm

    We know that there is corruption in the ranks of government officials and servants, if the judge finds this to be ok, then we should subpoena all relevant information from all government personnel and companies that do business with them to find out who they are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Pixelation, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 9:59pm

    Not sure why he's demanding it from Airbnb when the NSA already has the information. They'll be all too happy to give it to him as long as he promises to say he got it elsewhere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2013 @ 10:04am

    Re: Re: Redditch 4chan

    they did this with trapwire starting in 2009, in combination with phishing and mitm attacks on public I'm channels like Yahoo see cryptome put all the pieces together

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Little Guy, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 4:39am

    It looks to me that Schneiderman is not trying to protect the public, he is being bribed to protect the corporate monopoly of the hotel cartel. Documentary video by Stossel covered this recently:

    War on the Little Guy

    "Technology also helps people rent out extra rooms in their apartments to make extra money, through websites like Airbnb and Roomorama. Regulators are fighting this, too. In New York State, they passed a law banning such rentals if they're shorter than a month."
    h ttp://

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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