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Airbnb To Hand Over Data On 124 Hosts To New York Attorney General 149

Posted by Soulskill
from the quasi-legal-operations-sometimes-have-consequences dept.
Peer-to-peer lodging service Airbnb has agreed to hand over data on 124 of its hosts in New York as part of an investigation by the state's Attorney General into the operation of illegal hotels. The AG first requested data for almost all of Airbnb's hosts in the state, but after "legal wrangling," that number was whittled down to the current 124. The data in question will be unredacted personal information, meaning names and addresses. In a blog post, Airbnb's David Hantman said, "nothing about these hosting profiles suggests [the Attorney General] is after anyone but individuals who may be flagrantly misusing our platform." Airbnb is confident that the targets of this request are hosts considered to be "bad actors," but they don't explain what classifies somebody as a "bad actor."
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Airbnb To Hand Over Data On 124 Hosts To New York Attorney General

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  • by haruchai (17472) on Monday August 25, 2014 @12:17AM (#47745621)

    It's whoever we say and whoever doesn't have the means to buy us.

    • by ArmoredDragon (3450605) on Monday August 25, 2014 @12:22AM (#47745631)

      It's basically just politicians who are kowtowing to an industry that doesn't want more competition than it already has.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 25, 2014 @06:59AM (#47746583)

        They're "kowtowing" to an industry that has to follow regulations and therefore feels at an unfair disadvantage to players that eschew regulations (fire safety, hygiene, registration requirements, etc.). With that perspective, it should be easy to see who the bad actors are in principle: People who run hotels without following the regulations under the disguise of renting out rooms in their homes. It says as much in the blurb. There certainly is a gray area, but 124 hosts in NYC looks like they're only going after obvious cases.

      • by nbauman (624611) on Monday August 25, 2014 @01:48PM (#47750083) Homepage Journal

        I went to a meeting where I actually heard my local New York State assembly member, Dick Gottfried, and one from the neighboring district, Linda Rosenthal, denounce Airbnb.

        They said that they had never seen lobbying like that before. Everywhere you go in the state capital, you find Airbnb lobbyists. They have a massive lobbying effort.

        I told them that we were discussing it on Slashdot and I asked them to elaborate on exactly why Airbnb was wrong.

        First, they explained, you could always rent out a room in your home -- but you had to stay there. What you can't do is rent your apartment and leave. That's the housing law. (But most leases say that you have to get permission from your landlord to sublet.)

        The big problem is that landlords are deciding to let apartments go vacant rather than rent them to traditional long-term tenants with leases. Instead, they're renting out apartments through Airbnb, and making much more money, as de facto hotels. We have many regulations for hotels, most of them put in for good reason, and they're ignoring the regulations.

        Tenants don't like Airbnb because they reduce the rental housing stock. Landlords won't rent to tenants if they can make more from Airbnb. Furthermore, tenants don't like the heavy traffic of anonymous strangers coming in to their building. (Airbnb rentals are popular among prostitutes, or more properly, commercial sex workers.)

        In effect, if you visit New York City for a week, Airbnb is cheaper. However, if you want to live in New York City, Airbnb would make it harder for you to find permanent housing.

        One of our biggest problems in New York City is that housing is too expensive. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08... [nytimes.com]

        In New York City, most of us believe that poor and working-class people should be able to live here, because it offers them a way up. That's our values. In Houston or Atlanta you have other values. That's your privilege.

        We've worked out ways to do it, including rent control, public housing, and housing subsidies. It's not the perfect solution, but it works. Airbnb would disrupt this system. Retired people were paying $500 a month for a subsidized apartment and subletting it for $200 a night. Taxpayers don't want their subsidies to go for that.

        You may believe that the free market is a panacea that solves all problems. You may believe that we have a moral obligation to have a free market. In New York, we believe that everybody is entitled to his opinion. However, lots of people who don't understand how things work here come to New York and try to sell us on some new scheme. People like that don't usually get far in New York. I hear they have problems elsewhere too.

        • One of our biggest problems in New York City is that housing is too expensive.

          While a lot of your other complaints are legitimate, this one is not. When you live in a place like New York, you are making a conscious choice to live in what is perhaps the most expensive place in the US to live. It's a simple supply vs demand parable. The higher the demand, the more you pay. New York is a very high demand place to live.

          That said, you can't just decide to live in one of the most in demand places to live, mingle with the global elite, and then expect to not have to make any sacrifices in d

          • by nbauman (624611)

            You are making assumptions that seem obvious to you, but don't seem obvious to me, and in fact I disagree with them. And many people in New York City disagree with them.

            First, I have to live in New York City.

            In my (rent-subsidized) building, I live with artists, writers, musicians, theater people. Most of us are moderately successful, and we could never have careers like this outside of New York City. There is something called the "chance meeting at Zabar's effect." For example, I just heard about a profess

            • First, I have to live in New York City.

              No, you don't. I don't care what your career is; there are plenty of other places to do it. For example, "artísts" of the type you describe do extremely well in Las Vegas, which is a MUCH cheaper place to live.

              Second, we (us voters) have a sense of ownership.

              What you describe isn't a sense of ownership. Not at all. It's a sense of entitlement.

              How would you feel if somebody who was richer than you decided he wanted your house, and kicked you out under eminent domain?

              You never owned it to begin with.

              Essentially what all of this comes down to is that because of some combination of your job and who you are, you feel you're somehow special and deserve that kind of living more t

              • by nbauman (624611)

                First, I have to live in New York City.

                No, you don't. I don't care what your career is; there are plenty of other places to do it. For example, "artísts" of the type you describe do extremely well in Las Vegas, which is a MUCH cheaper place to live.

                You're suggesting that I live in a state where it is illegal for a mathematician to go into a casino and win a lot of money, by following all the rules of the game, if he's too good at it? No thanks.

                • There are plenty of places; Vegas is merely one of them.

                  • by nbauman (624611)

                    I'm not going to run my career based on the advice of a free-market ideologue, who doesn't even know what I do.

                    The conservatives don't care about principles or logic. If they can pack the Supreme Court, and legislate from the bench, they'll do it. If they can contract with their employees for retirement income, and break the contract, they'll do it.

                    We can't reason with these people. The only thing they understand is power. All we can do is organize to get the votes to make a better society. In New York City

                    • I'm not telling you how to run your career, I'm just telling you that there's more to life than New York. If you want to live paycheck to paycheck needlessly, be my guest.

                      But know this: You have no right to name your own price for anybody else's resources any more than they have a right to name their price for yours. Labor, too, is a resource.

  • Avoid New York (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NaCh0 (6124) on Monday August 25, 2014 @12:36AM (#47745667)

    Every time I see a story like this or the problems Tesla has in NY, I can't help but think of the "New York is open for business" commercials flooded on the TV news channels. One of the most taxed and regulated states in the nation claiming to be business friendly.

    Fuck Noo Yawk.

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but New York is @#$^% rich! So they must be doing *something* right.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Every time I see a story like this or the problems Tesla has in NY, I can't help but think of the "New York is open for business" commercials flooded on the TV news channels.

      New York is well known for its tradition of aggressive Attorney Generals and
      that State has done more for consumer protection than most States' AGs combined.

      Your complaints (Tesla, Airbnb) are with the existing laws, not the AG who makes sure they are enforced.

    • I can't help but think of the "New York is open for business" commercials flooded on the TV news channels

      States that are truly that don't have to run ads, so proclaiming.

  • by Artifakt (700173) on Monday August 25, 2014 @12:40AM (#47745677)

    I know of one actual Bed and Breakfast that takes in normal clients through one set of ads, and runs other ads in BDSM magazines and such and serves as a dungeon for that clientel. They apparently rely on not scheduling people who don't know what's in the basement at the same time as those who do or something like that - maybe weekends are for whipsters. Is it possible this counts as a "bad actor"?
                Or what about people who are subletting property they only rent, against their rental agreement? Not that that's right, but I could certainly see the New York state authorities focusing only on those cases and ignoring a lot of owner landlords who rent out unsafe property, or worse, the ones who use goons to frighten or actually beat people who are protected from price increases by rent control, to force them to break their leases and free the property to be rented at a higher rate. Leaning on little old ladies is a pretty blatent kind of 'bad acting", but is it even on the radar in this case, or is it all about getting the low hanging fruit of renters who generally can't afford lawyers rather than landlords who can?.

    • by Cyberax (705495)
      Lots of apartments in NY are rent-controlled. I once lived in an apartment for $500 a month (it was a really crappy one, I could hear a neighbor 2 floors up). Somebody was also Airbnb-ing an apartment in this house for $80 a day.
  • ...for establishing a system of competition based on government regulation rather than quality of goods and services. I'm sure harassing 124 small time hosts will help the big players, who line the pockets of politicians with contributions, scare off hundreds more. And of course, since New York has no other crimes to look into, this is a perfectly prioritized use of limited prosecutorial resources. /sarc

    First we had the #warondrugs, now we have the #waronunlicensedhotels?

  • by HoppQ (29469) on Monday August 25, 2014 @01:05AM (#47745751) Homepage

    I believe it's essentially about someone running what is essentially a hotel without paying the taxes that hotels are supposed to pay.

    See http://www.balloon-juice.com/2... [balloon-juice.com]

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well yes, it's about that.

      which makes the debate more about if a room for rent -literally- is a hotel - and why it's not a hotel if the guest stays for a month..

      • by khchung (462899)

        well yes, it's about that.

        which makes the debate more about if a room for rent -literally- is a hotel - and why it's not a hotel if the guest stays for a month..

        How about the simple fact that most tourists staying in a place for just a few days usually won't bother to go to authorities if there is something wrong with their rooms? As such, to protect the reputation of a city, they have to regulate the hotels that primarily target tourists?

        If you are going to stay in the same place for a month or more, it is likely you will find out anything wrong in the first week, and you would more likely report it to police as you still have to stay for weeks there. Plus, peop

    • by CauseBy (3029989)

      That's what it's about, and that's what it should be about.

      Pay your taxes. Stop trying to invent clever ways to avoid taxes. When you do that, you are fucking me, and I don't appreciate it, and it makes me support a heavy-handed government. If you don't like heavy-handed government then stop being a tax cheat.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    at the Bates Hotel

  • by Anonymous Coward

    During the last year of negotiations with the NY AG (Eric Schneiderman), AirBnB offered to remit taxes on the hosts' behalf, as they have done in other markets (such as San Francisco). The AG rejected this proposal. Why? Because it's not about taxes, it's about killing any possible competition the large hotels in NYC face. In fact, Schneiderman has surrounded himself with people who have heavy ties to the hotel industry, and has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from hotel lobb

  • by Matt_Bennett (79107) on Monday August 25, 2014 @07:36AM (#47746759) Homepage Journal

    Vast generalization here (I'm not a legal scholar)- but it looks like laws have been put in place to 1) encourage something viewed as good by the legislature or 2) discourage something viewed as bad by the legislature. What is viewed as "good" or "bad" is up to the legislator, the folks that the elected the legislator, the folks that the legislator represents, and most important to our current system of campaign finance, the folks that pay for the legislator's campaign. Airbnb is ostensibly a mechanism to allow people to profit from use underutilized space. Unfortunately some of the underutilized space is contained in clauses in lease agreements that the Airbnb hosts chose to ignore.

    The hotel laws were put in place because of abuses. Rent control was put in place because of abuses and to encourage affordable housing. The "bad actors" are those that are abusing the system at the potential risk to their customers- and they are customers, not guests. Because of the immense amount of money moving around, there will be abuses and bargains. Leave it up to a company to determine the bad actors, and they will invariably call out those that pose the greatest risk- and since it is a profit driven company, risk is about money, with no consideration given to public welfare (ostensibly the government's arena).

  • NYC Resident Here (Score:5, Informative)

    by hirschma (187820) on Monday August 25, 2014 @08:59AM (#47747295)

    People forget that there is another side here - the NYC resident. Consider that there's likely several people within 20 feet of me at any given time - this is the reality of big city living.

    What AirBnB means to me is a diminished quality of life.

    It means "guests" rolling in at 2am, feeling the need to open and close every door and cupboard (and waking up my household). Ringing my bell accidentally at all hours. Using AirBnB to find one-night party space. Smoking everywhere.

    This is all from one apartment directly above me. If I complain to NYC, it means that they're sued to death and evicted (which I'm sorely tempted to do, but the punishment is very harsh). If I don't, I have to live in a noisier, less enjoyable circumstance.

    And yes, I've taken the time to ask the folks upstairs to be more considerate. Their response? "It's our right", even though it's against the law.

    AirBnB sucks.

    • Re:NYC Resident Here (Score:4, Interesting)

      by inject_hotmail.com (843637) on Monday August 25, 2014 @10:31AM (#47748193)
      So you have these options:

      1. Do nothing,
      2. Ask them to stop again (politely, with or without warning about going to authorities),
      3. Ask them to stop again (not politely, with or without warning about going to authorities), and
      4. Go straight to the authorities.

      My recommendation? Go straight to the authorities. You've been polite, and you do not deserve to suffer as they benefit. Make no mistake, the only reason they are doing AirBNB is to profit. You have every right not to suffer a 'diminished quality of life' (as you, very succinctly I must say, put it) just so they can put an extra, what...$30 a day(?) in their pocket.

      Strictly speaking, anyone operating an AirBNB rental is operating a business. They are providing a service/resource to those who are willing to pay. Is an expense to that business paying the people around him to allow him to do so? Maybe (we as a society seem to endorse the idea of a 'money to QoL' ratio). So, my next question is this: is Mr. Ignorant claiming that income on his income tax? I imagine not. That might be more legal leverage you have in this case. (Side note: little do most people know that if you legitimize a business, a huge array of tax incentives start rolling in (proportionally expense your Internet, heating, electricity, computers, vehicle, etc).

      I wish you the best of luck in your quest.
      • by grahamsz (150076) on Monday August 25, 2014 @11:34AM (#47748793) Homepage Journal

        You could always exploit the review system of airbnb to force a change.

        Whenever their guests are quiet you can flip the tables and go knock on their door at midnight. Tell them "[landlord's name] said you've have shit ready for me". Once they get a few reviews of "Strange people show up in the middle of the night maybe trying to buy drugs" it should in theory sort itself out :)

    • by CauseBy (3029989)

      You told them to stop breaking the law because it inconveniences you, and they said "it's our right"? Seriously? Given that situation, my response would have been "Oh, gosh, I'm sorry, I thought it wasn't your right at all. I'll call the Hotel Commission just to verify you are right. Here, I'll do it while you wait..."

    • by nbauman (624611)

      This is all from one apartment directly above me. If I complain to NYC, it means that they're sued to death and evicted (which I'm sorely tempted to do, but the punishment is very harsh). If I don't, I have to live in a noisier, less enjoyable circumstance.

      And yes, I've taken the time to ask the folks upstairs to be more considerate. Their response? "It's our right", even though it's against the law.

      AirBnB sucks.

      I have dealt with neighbor problems in a Breakfast-at-Tiffany's type New York City apartment building, and those neighbors included several musicians and a dimwit upstairs whose bathtub kept overflowing. I'm not so quiet myself, and I often work late. We usually managed to work everything out.

      One guy was an asshole. I tried to talk to him, the landlord tried to talk to him, but he just wanted to do things his way. I felt the way you do about calling in the authorities, but finally I reached the last straw.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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