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Airbnb Wins a Battle in New York Over User Records

Chris Weeks | Getty Images for Airbnb

A New York judge ruled in favor of Airbnb Tuesday in its ongoing fight with the state's attorney general.

Airbnb was fighting not to hand over data about its hosts' identities, addresses, history of visits and history of payments. Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly agreed with the company that "the subpoena seeks materials that are irrelevant to the inquiry at hand and accordingly, must be quashed." (In New York, the Supreme Court is the trial level court, not the state's highest court.)

However, the judge wasn't fully on Airbnb's side, saying that it shouldn't have been hard for the company to come up with those electronic records. Airbnb "failed to demonstrate the subpoena is unduly burdensome," said the ruling.

At issue are the attorney general's concerns about whether Airbnb hosts are conducting short-term rentals illegally and failing to pay appropriate hotel taxes. Recently, Airbnb has indicated a willingness to pay those taxes.

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Airbnb's statement on the matter was: "This decision is good news for New Yorkers who simply want to share their home and the city they love. Now, it's time for us to work together. Airbnb hosts and the Attorney General share a common goal: we all want to make New York a better place to live, work and visit. We look forward to continuing to work with the Attorney General's Office to make New York stronger for everyone."

New York attorney general spokesperson Matt Mittenthal wasn't so ready to concede the a win, narrow though it may have been. "The judge's decision specifically found evidence that a 'substantial' number of Airbnb hosts may be violating the tax laws and the law that prohibits illegal hotels. This comes as no surprise, given that Airbnb itself removed some 2,000 New York-based listings from its site. Our office is committed to enforcing a law that provides vital protections for building residents and tourists alike. The judge rejected all of AirBnb's arguments except for a narrow technical issue, and we will reissue the subpoena to address it."

By Liz Gannes, Re/code.net.

CNBC's parent NBC Universal is an investor in Re/code's parent Revere Digital, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.

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