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Airbnb sues New York City over data collection

Airbnb sued New York City on Friday in

Airbnb sued New York City on Friday in Manhattan federal court over a new data-collection law that it said is designed to help the hotel industry and discourage home sharing by violating residents' privacy rights. Credit: Airbnb

Airbnb sued New York City on Friday in Manhattan federal court over a new data-collection law that it said is designed to help the hotel industry and discourage home sharing by violating residents’ privacy rights.

“The ordinance is an extraordinary act of government overreach,” said the lawsuit. “It is also the product of a multimillion dollar campaign funded by the city’s powerful hotel lobby, which is intent on intimidating New Yorkers into abandoning homesharing.”

The company says it arranged more than 700,000 short-term bookings in the city in 2016. The law, passed last month, requires platforms like Airbnb — which help connect homeowners and visitors — to share information about users and rentals with city enforcement agencies.

The city contends that the data will help enforce existing laws that prohibit apartment rentals of  less than 30 days when the owner isn’t present, limit commercial operations that rent multiple units and prevent what amounts to unlicensed hotels from eating up rental housing stock.

“This 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,” said Christian Klossner, head of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, in a statement Friday.

But Airbnb contends that the number of actual violators is small, and the real goal of the law is to reduce legal rentals because of fear of being targeted for enforcement. The suit said that the new law was the product of an “aggressive campaign” by hotel interests, which since 2013 have given $460,000 to City Council members and $235,000 to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The company said the level of intrusion of the data collection required is unprecedented.

“Neither New York City nor any other city, nor any state, nor the federal government has ever tried forcing the disclosure to law enforcement of personal information about every user of an online service simply because some may use the service to break the law,” the lawsuit said.

The law is scheduled to go into effect in February.

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