A.G., Airbnb reach agreement on user information

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Eric Schneiderman (New York State Office of the Attorney General)
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HUNTINGTON— Popular short-term rental site Airbnb has agreed to turn over some information about its website’s users to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, he announced Wednesday.

Schneiderman’s office has been locked in a contentious battle with Airbnb officials since October, when the state sent out subpoenas seeking information about the site’s users, amid speculation that a sizable number of the rental listings could be in violation of New York City rent regulations.

Airbnb officials argued those requests for information were too broad.

Last week, a state supreme court judge agreed with that criticism, ruling that the subpoenas had been written too broadly.

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The agreement is a compromise intended to protect users’ identities.

It requires Airbnb to turn over data within 30 days, but is designed to address the company’s concerns about protecting the identities and personal information of its users.

The data will anonymize any users’ names, email addresses, telephone numbers, apartment numbers, or social media account information. It also will redact any information about users’ identities on Airbnb’s website and any tax I.D. information, according to a copy of the agreement. But if the A.G.'s office finds anything suspicious in the user data and begins an investigation, Airbnb must turn over users' personal information, including names, addresses and tax identification information.

The agreement also addresses a problem Schneiderman’s office raised about the company’s disclosure to users about whether or not they might be violating the law by renting out their apartments or homes. The agreement requires new users signing up to rent out their apartments on Airbnb to read through a notice that informs them of the provisions of New York’s short-term rental, tax and zoning laws.

Within a year from the date of the agreement, the company must meet with representatives of the attorney general’s office to hammer out details of how the company will disclose information about rent and tax laws to its users.

In a statement, Schneiderman’s office said the agreement “appropriately balances Attorney General Schneiderman’s commitment to protecting New York’s residents and tourists from illegal hotels with Airbnb’s concerns about the privacy of thousands of other hosts.”