Airbnb files motion to block New York demand for info

Airbnb said it was fighting a subpoena for information on hosts of its rental service

Airbnb's dispute with New York state regulators heated up on Wednesday with the company saying it filed a motion in New York State Supreme Court, objecting to a subpoena for information on 15,000 participating hosts in the city.

The case is the latest in a growing number of disputes over how much information online services should be required to provide to law enforcement agencies.

The motion by the short-term home rental service objects to the broad sweep of the demand by the state's attorney general Eric Schneiderman, wrote David Hantman, head of global public policy at Airbnb, in a blog post.

"The media has reported that the Attorney General is seeking to target a small number of illegal hotels that abuse the Airbnb platform," a goal which the company shares, Hantman wrote.

But a subpoena issued by the attorney general last Friday "goes well beyond bad actors and demands information about thousands of regular Airbnb hosts in New York," according to Hantman. The company said it would not support a "fishing expedition" by the government.

The San Francisco-based company provides a marketplace where users can list, find and book a variety of accommodations from their mobile phones or online. It claims 225,000 community members spread across 34,000 cities in 192 countries

The vast majority of hosts in New York are everyday New Yorkers who occasionally share the home in which they live, the company claims. But these hosts have come under fire for alleged violation of a 2010 law governing property rentals, according to reports.

Hantman said in another blog post on Sunday that the company would fight the subpoena. He wrote that the company would continue its conversations with the attorney general's office to find a way to work together "to support Airbnb hosts and remove bad actors from the Airbnb platform."

The negotiations apparently broke down, leading the company to challenge the subpoena in court. "This may be a tough fight, but it is one worth fighting," Hantman wrote. Information on the lawsuit could not be accessed on the court site. The attorney-general's office could not be immediately reached for comment.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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