In late August, Airbnb filed a suit against New York City following passage of a law by the City Council that requires short-term rentals to register their listings and supply personal information to the government.
The Short-Term Residential Ordinance requires companies such as Airbnb or Homeaway to provide the personal and financial information of all their property hosts on a monthly basis – such as their hosts’ name, address, and email. Shockingly, the law does not explicitly provide any safeguards for data protection. Hosts’ information will be at risk, and all because they are trying to make ends meet and creating a source of supplemental income.
New York City has overstepped its constitutional authority. As argued in an Amicus brief filed by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in support of Airbnb, the City has “created an unfair playing field by increasing barriers to entry for new innovative technological and community-based initiatives.” EFF maintained that the data collection violates protections outlined in the Stored Communications Act passed by Congress in 1986.
The American Action Program estimated that short-term rentals generate around $500 million in gross revenue that would be lost in New York City if hosts are not allowed to list on Airbnb. In its New York suit, Airbnb stated that “[T]he Ordinance is an unlawful end-run around established restraints on governmental action and violates core constitutional rights under the First and Fourth Amendments” and that the law is “an extraordinary act of government overreach.”
The Short-Term Residential Ordinance policy is an unconstitutional attack on privacy, and it undermines a budding industry that has expanded tourism to new areas of the city. The City Council should have known better. Other municipalities should not fall for this overaggressive tactic.