Airbnb to start sharing Chinese host information with government

FILE PHOTO - A woman talks on the phone at the Airbnb office headquarters in the SOMA district of San Francisco, California, U.S., August 2, 2016. REUTERS/Gabrielle Lurie

BEIJING (Reuters) - U.S. short-term rental service Airbnb Inc said it would start disclosing host information to Chinese government agencies starting on Friday, as the San Francisco-based company complies with regulations in China.

China’s strict regulations on residency require citizens and tourists to register their addresses with the police when they arrive in the country or stay at a hotel, within 24 hours.

The changes come after Airbnb shuttered its service for a month in Beijing while the country’s annual parliament was in session, a time of increased surveillance targeting dissidents and migrants.

Airbnb China said in an email to hosts reviewed by Reuters that the decision is “similar to other hospitality companies that do business in China,” and users with concerns can deactivate their listings.

“Airbnb China must comply with local laws and regulations, including privacy and information disclosure laws,” it said.

Airbnb did not respond to a request for comment on the specific disclosures, but a spokesman said that it complies with China’s laws.

In late 2016, Airbnb moved to store its data in China to meet the country’s requirements, sparking concern that user data would be compromised. It also launched a separate Chinese business to comply with the law.

China introduced a strict new cybersecurity law last year that requires foreign and local tech firms to store Chinese data locally and offer technical support to authorities who wish to access it.

Airbnb is expanding in China amid stiff competition from Chinese rivals and, which also comply with the strict regulations and shutter their services during politically sensitive events.

Reporting by Pei Li and Cate Cadell; Editing by Jacqueline Wong