Airbnb is suing the city over new data-collection law

Home-sharing company says new rule is an “unlawful end-run” around Constitutional protections

From left: Mayor Bill de Blasio, Brian Chesky, and Corey Johnson (Credit: Getty Images)
From left: Mayor Bill de Blasio, Brian Chesky, and Corey Johnson (Credit: Getty Images)

Airbnb sued the city Friday, challenging the law Mayor Bill de Blasio signed earlier this month that requires the home-sharing company to hand over information on all of its New York City listings.

The city’s new law requires Airbnb and similar home-sharing companies to provide the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement on a monthly basis with the name, address, telephone number and e-mail address of each of its hosts, as well as the the number of days a home is rented and the fees received. In some cases, the city wants information on the bank accounts where the hosts receive rental fees.

Companies will face fines of up to $1,500 for each listing that is not properly disclosed.

Airbnb on Friday filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York claiming the new ordinance is an “unlawful end-run around established restraints on governmental action” that violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

“Under normal circumstances, government agencies may obtain private information about citizens only by following the strict legal processes that protect constitutional rights and provide for review and challenge,” the lawsuit reads. “The Homesharing Surveillance Ordinance evades those protections by mandating — under threat of newly created legal liability — that Internet platforms holding the sought-after data obtain blanket, advance ‘consent’ from their users and then automatically surrender the demanded data to the City’s enforcement agency every month.”

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Christian Klossner, head of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, said the law “provides the city with the critical data it needs to preserve our housing stock, keep visitors safe, and ensure residents feel secure in their homes and neighborhoods, and the city will defend it.”

Airbnb is asking the court to declare that the new law cannot be enforced against the company.

With a valuation of $31 billion, Airbnb is eyeing an initial public offering on Wall Street by late 2020. But those plans could be impacted by tough regulations that cut into the company’s business, particularly in New York City, its largest market. After a similar bill was enacted in San Francisco, Airbnb’s listings in that city reportedly fell by half.