Consumer Watchdog Says L.A. Home-Sharing Proposal Would Violate Privacy

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A proposed home-sharing ordinance in Los Angeles would violate the privacy of individuals who use platforms such as Airbnb and put the burden of enforcement on residents, according to the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog.

“This is an unwarranted intrusion into users’ privacy and inappropriately requires the home sharing platform to do the enforcement work that should rightfully be done by the city,” John Simpson, privacy project director at Consumer Watchdog, said in a June 13 letter to the city’s planning commission. “Throwing open the door to mass data collection – with no legal justification like a warrant – would deal a serious blow to privacy rights in Los Angeles.”

The municipal agency recently proposed an ordinance to require online home-sharing sites like Airbnb to turn over information — number of nights rented, amount paid in rent — to the city on a monthly basis. The websites would face fines if they fail to do so under the proposed ordinance.

Simpson equated the proposed requirement for home-sharing sites to laws that would require online retailers like eBay to report the name, number of sales and amount collected in each sale for every person using the site in order to seek out tax cheats.

“The users of home sharing sites have no less right to privacy simply because the companies are unpopular in some quarters,” Simpson said. He added that his group has no objection to the city requiring  registration, licenses and occupancy taxes for people who provide home-sharing services.

Some council members have defended the proposal.

City Councilman Mike Bonin said in a Facebook post that “the draft ordinance proposes an enforceable system to protect affordable housing and our neighborhoods from rogue hotel operators, while still allowing people to make ends meet by sharing their primary residence.”

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