Airbnb has been in the midst of a fight with local regulators in New York, where it was recently subpoenaed by the Attorney General’s office for a wide-ranging amount of user data. Well today the company received broad support from the tech industry as a whole, as Washington, DC-based lobbying group The Internet Association has come to the company’s side in that fight by filing an amicus brief today.
The Internet Association is a fairly new trade association for tech companies, with members such as Amazon.com, AOL, eBay, Facebook, Google, IAC, LinkedIn, Rackspace, Salesforce.com, TripAdvisor, Yahoo!, and Zynga. Formed about a year ago to represent the interests of the tech community, the firm has mostly focused on big-picture issues of legislation, backing this or that bill or broadly backing things like stronger privacy protection.
But this is one of the first cases of The Internet Association stepping in to a fight regarding one of its particular member organizations. By filing an amicus brief, it’s like the full weight of the tech world is siding with Airbnb in this local fight.
In the brief, The Internet Association states that the New York Attorney General exceeded the limits of its power by requesting information on all of Airbnb’s hosts in New York “without any explanation as to whether or how any of those hosts may have violated any law.”
Not surprisingly, this is the same argument that Airbnb used when it first publicly came out against the NY Attorney General’s demands. But as the brief states, this type of “fishing expedition,” if upheld, has broader implications for the tech industry as a whole.
The association argues that should a court require Airbnb to comply with the NYAG’s demands, it would set a “dangerous and harmful precedent” whereby local governments could request large swaths of information about users without showing any proof of wrongdoing.
And that’s something that no tech company wants.
Airbnb’s fight in New York will be just one step as the company seeks to get its marketplace for home rentals and short-term lodgings generally accepted by local governments around the world. But the backing of the tech lobbying association will hopefully strengthen its chances and bodes well for other members — like Uber — as they seek to overturn existing legislation in markets where legality of new, innovative business models are questionable.