Judge Narrows Subpoena For New Yorkers’ Airbnb Records in Privacy-Protective Ruling

Judge Narrows Subpoena For New Yorkers’ Airbnb Records in Privacy-Protective Ruling

Late last fall we posted about Attorney General Schneiderman’s troubling attempts to subpoena data on 15,000 New York City-based users of Airbnb, the service best known for allowing people to rent out their spare bedrooms or their homes while on vacation. Schneiderman was trying to find landlords who were renting their apartments out long-term through Airbnb as makeshift hotels, while failing to pay the requisite hotel taxes. While recognizing the city’s compelling need to find tax scofflaws, FPF was critical of Schneiderman’s approach, as it required Airbnb to reveal the vacation habits of thousands of New Yorkers (even ones not suspected of any wrongdoing), including residents’ names and contact information, dates of guest stays, rates charged, and any communications between users and Airbnb about tax issues.

We are happy to report that State Supreme Court Judge Gerald Connolly ruled in Airbnb’s favor, generally siding with the company’s argument that the subpoena was overly broad. Although Judge Connolly’s opinion implies that a narrower subpoena of Airbnb’s records is likely to be upheld, the judge wrote that the subpoena “as drafted, seeks materials that are irrelevant to the inquiry at hand and accordingly, must be quashed.” Specifically, judge Connolly criticized the subpoena because it included information on residents outside of New York City, as well as rentals of fewer than 14 days (which are legal under New York Law).

Although no one should not be able to avoid the law simply by doing business online, overly broad subpoenas for innocent customer information harm consumer trust, which in turn cripples online business as well as individual freedom. We applaud Judge Connolly for correctly identifying the overbreadth problem with Schneiderman’s subpoena, and we expect that a more balanced request will follow.

Leave a Reply


Privacy Calendar

Nov
7
Fri
all-day George Washington Law Review 201... @ George Washington University Law School
George Washington Law Review 201... @ George Washington University Law School
Nov 7 – Nov 8 all-day
Save the date for the GW Law Review‘s Annual Symposium, The FTC at 100: Centennial Commemorations and Proposals for Progress, which will be held on Saturday, November 8, 2014, in Washington, DC. This year’s symposium, hosted in[...]
Nov
11
Tue
10:15 am You Are Here: GPS Location Track... @ Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows
You Are Here: GPS Location Track... @ Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows
Nov 11 @ 10:15 am
EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury will present twice at the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association’s Annual Sunny Climate Seminar. He will give a presentation on government location tracking issues and then participate in a panel[...]
Nov
12
Wed
all-day PCLOB Public Meeting on “Definin... @ Washington Marriott Hotel
PCLOB Public Meeting on “Definin... @ Washington Marriott Hotel
Nov 12 all-day
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board will conduct a public meeting with industry representatives, academics, technologists, government personnel, and members of the advocacy community, on the topic: “Defining Privacy.”   While the Board will[...]
Nov
20
Thu
all-day W3C Workshop on Privacy and User... @ Berlin, Germany
W3C Workshop on Privacy and User... @ Berlin, Germany
Nov 20 – Nov 21 all-day
The Workshop on User Centric App Controls intents to further the discussion among stakeholders of the mobile web platform, including researchers, developers and service providers. This workshop serves to investigate strategies toward better privacy protection[...]
Dec
2
Tue
all-day IAPP Practical Privacy Series 2014
IAPP Practical Privacy Series 2014
Dec 2 – Dec 3 all-day
Government and FTC and Consumer Privacy return to Washington, DC. For more information, click here.
Dec
11
Thu
9:00 am Progress of the EU Data Protecti...
Progress of the EU Data Protecti...
Dec 11 @ 9:00 am
The EU Member States have agreed to conclude the negotiations on the EU Data Protection draft Regulation in 2015. The process will have arrived at a critical point by the end of this year. The[...]

View Calendar