The Real Deal New York

25 Airbnb hosts sue to block turnover of private information

Group fighting to keep their details private following deal between attorney general and Airbnb
By Adam Pincus | September 02, 2014 02:32PM

UPDATED, Sept. 2, 5:00 p.m.: More than two dozen New York Airbnb hosts filed a lawsuit early this morning to block the disclosure of their personal information as stipulated in an agreement between the New York attorney general and the online rental service.

The group of 25 anonymous hosts are fighting to keep their information private following a deal hammered out in May between Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office and Airbnb.

The suit, filed this morning in New York State Supreme Court, is seeking an injunction blocking the turnover of information including names, addresses and social security numbers, Adam Leitman Bailey, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, told The Real Deal. He was citing the U.S. Stored Communications Act, which he said precludes Airbnb from turning over the information without a warrant or court order.

The suit also says the disclosure would be a violation of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment against illegal searches and seizures, as well as violations of the Fifth and 14th Amendments, the suit claims.

In addition, he added that prevailing law prohibits the turnover.

“Under federal law, you are not allowed to release that information,” Bailey said.

“Last month, we followed our normal procedures and notified a small number of hosts that their data had been requested by the New York Attorney General under a subpoena,” Airbnb said in a statement. “We will not take action with data from hosts who have previously filed suit until the court makes a decision and we will respect the court’s decision.”

About a quarter of the hosts are unemployed, and at least one is a single mother, Bailey said. Most of his clients had more than one unit, but Bailey would not disclose how many the largest had.

The court action comes after the AG sought to compel Airbnb to release information, using a subpoena seeking information from more than 15,000 of the site’s hosts. That initial effort was blocked, but the attorney general and the Internet giant hammed out an agreement where anonymized information would be released.

San Francisco-based Airbnb, founded in 2008, was valued in April at $10 billion. It operates in 34,000 cities in 190 countries, according to its website.

Correction: Adam Leitman Bailey said initial figures provided in an interview about how many units his host clients operated in New York was incorrect. In fact most operated more than one apartment.