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.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

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


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 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.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.