Airbnb agrees to send user records to NY Attorney General

NEW YORK Wed May 21, 2014 12:00pm EDT

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NEW YORK May 21 (Reuters) - Airbnb, a website specializing in short-term home rentals, agreed on Wednesday to turn over its user records to New York state officials in an ongoing investigation of illegal short-term renting in New York City, the company and officials said.

The agreement caps a months-long legal fight over a records database that could provide details on how much of Airbnb's business in the city is legitimate and how much runs afoul of state law. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened an investigation into the company last year.

According to a statement issued by the company and the attorney general's office, the accord balances investigators' "commitment to protecting New York's residents and tourists from illegal hotels with Airbnb's concerns about the privacy of thousands of other hosts."

The agreement requires Airbnb, which allows people to publish rental listings for spare rooms or couches, to begin delivering its entire New York listings database, without turning over users' identities, to the state's attorney general for review within a month, the agreement stated.

If prosecutors suspect some of the anonymous hosts of violating state laws, Airbnb will be required to provide detailed user information, including the person's name, address and tax ID number, according to the agreement.

Schneiderman originally demanded that Airbnb turn over its records in August, but state Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly quashed the request earlier this month. Shortly thereafter, the attorney general's office filed another subpoena request, to which Airbnb agreed on Wednesday.

In April, the state's attorney general said that as many as two-thirds of the more than 19,500 New York City listings on the online rental site might be illegal. (Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Scott Malone and Gunna Dickson)

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