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.
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Filed Under: eric schneiderman, fishing expedition, ny
Companies: airbnb, cdt, eff

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  1. icon
    velox (profile), 12 Nov 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.

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