Privacy And Taxation Can Go Hand In Hand, Consumer Watchdog Tells San Francisco And Sacramento Lawmakers

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SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog today called for amendments to proposals under consideration in San Francisco and in the California Senate aimed at regulating home sharing platforms like Airbnb, that would ensure privacy and allow occupancy taxes to be collected.

“You can collect taxes and protect privacy at the same time,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director.

Both San Francisco Ordinance 150364, sponsored by Supervisor David Campos, and California Sen. Mike McGuire’s SB 593 would require home sharing sites to turn over to local governments the address, number of nights rented, and amount paid to every host that rents their home through the site. Any government agency that has a person’s address in hand is going to be able to determine the person’s name as well, said Consumer Watchdog.

The San Francisco Planning Commission is scheduled to take up the Campos ordinance Thursday afternoon.  The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee approved Senator McGuire’s SB 593 on Tuesday.  In a letter to McGuire, Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court and Simpson wrote:

“Government demands for the wholesale production of Internet users’ transactional and personal data is the central privacy question of our time. Throwing open the door to mass data collection  – with no legal justification, like the warrant currently required to demand such broad information from any private company – would be a serious blow to privacy rights in California. Requiring e-commerce sites to turn over personal data so enforcement officials can scour through records and search for potential violations of local laws amounts to a blank search warrant and a basic violation of our civil rights. SB 593 opens the door to establishing such inappropriate government powers.”

Read Consumer Watchdog’s letter to McGuire here:

Consumer Watchdog said amending SB 593 to protect privacy is a simple matter by deleting everything in the bill except the definitions and the last section:

“(d) A city, county, or city and county may require the operator of a hosting platform to collect applicable transient occupancy tax imposed by that local agency, and to remit that tax to that agency.”

Similarly, Consumer Watchdog called for dropping invasive reporting requirements from the proposed Campos ordinance in San Francisco.

"Ensuring that owners renting their homes online pay appropriate taxes does not require California citizens to relinquish their right to privacy,” said Simpson.

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Jamie Court
Jamie Court
Consumer Watchdog's President and Chairman of the Board is an award-winning and nationally recognized consumer advocate. The author of three books, he has led dozens of campaigns to reform insurance companies, financial institutions, energy companies, political accountability and health care companies.

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