NEW YORK May 21 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