Airbnb Scores Early Victory in Consumer Privacy Fight

January 3, 2019

Airbnb obtained a preliminary injunction in federal court on January 3, preventing New York City from enforcing a new ordinance intended to collect personal data about the users of short-term rental platforms. This case has significant implications, not just for Airbnb, but potentially for any business concerned about protecting the privacy of its users. 
 
“The city's proposed ordinance was an attempt to do an end run around established restraint on government powers,” said Sharon Nelles, who serves as co-counsel to Airbnb together with Roberta Kaplan of Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP. Ms. Nelles and Ms. Kaplan have discussed the victory and its broader implications with a number of media outlets, and the win has been featured by the New York Times, the New York Daily News, Politico, Law360, New York Law Journal, NY1's Mornings on 1 and others.
 
In his decision, Judge Paul A. Engelmayer of the Southern District of New York wrote that the compelled production of user records “is an event that implicates the Fourth Amendment,” and noted that although precedent has allowed for tight regulation of other industries such as mining, junkyards and liquor, “[t]he hotel industry does not involve inherently dangerous operations or have a history of pervasive regulation.” Judge Engelmayer also noted that if the law had been in effect in 2016, Airbnb would have faced fines amounting to over $1 billion.