As Airbnb attempts to fight off new regulations that will curb its business in one of the company’s highest-activity cities, the home-sharing giant is still struggling to find allies in the New York City political sphere.
A group of 20 elected officials and housing organizations restated their opposition to the company’s current practices via an amicus brief submitted this week in Airbnb’s ongoing lawsuit against the city’s new reporting law. Meanwhile, the hotel industry-backed, anti-Airbnb coalition Share Better is running a six-figure ad campaign this week chiding the $31 billion company for its lack of friends in various places where it has taken root.
Airbnb is suing the city on privacy grounds and has called the regulations an “extraordinary act of government overreach.” The law, which will go into effect in February and also covers fellow home-sharing site HomeAway, will require the company to make monthly disclosures of certain bookings information to the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement — data Airbnb says would jeopardize the privacy of hosts and could be used by the city to target them unfairly. The parties are due in court this Friday.
Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), who had led efforts to regulate the company at the state level, said Airbnb’s privacy argument is an act.
“It is rich that technology companies such as booking services for decades have played fast and loose with customer data, content to sell demographic and sensitive personal information to the highest bidder with little regard for the end use, now purport to care about protecting that very data,” she wrote in the amicus brief.
“It would seem that data sharing is okay, so long as the companies mining the data are the ones to profit from sharing it,” she added.
Elected officials and housing advocates have long charged that the short-term rental company has thinned New York City’s already limited affordable housing stock and say the new legislation will allow the city to parse out and target bad actors.
The company is fighting regulation efforts based on similar concerns in other cities as well. The Washington, D.C., City Council voted in favor of a bill on Tuesday that would curb the number of homes a property owner can simultaneously rent out on a short-term basis and limit the amount of time hosts can rent out a primary residence. Regulations that have passed in places such as San Francisco have led to a drop in Airbnb listings.
“Airbnb wants you to think cities around the world are waiting with open arms to invite them in, but this is the greeting they’ve earned,” begins the Share Better ad, displaying headlines on regulation efforts in various cities. “These are Airbnb’s biggest markets, and they see Airbnb for who they really are.”
Groups including e-commerce trade association NetChoice and Tech:NYC, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of tech companies, filed amicus briefs on Monday in support of the home-sharing company. NetChoice called the new law “clearly unconstitutional” and said it “defies the privacy protections that the state requires and the city has professed to respect.”
Tech:NYC argued in court documents that the law would “stymie innovation, undermine economic growth, create complex compliance problems, and raise very real information privacy concerns.”
Airbnb declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.