Airbnb sues in British Columbia to block publication of host names and addresses – BC News
Photo: Steven Chua
Airbnb is heading to court to block the disclosure of identifying information.
Short-term rental company Airbnb is going to court to block the disclosure of identifying information behind its operators under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
In a motion filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia on January 28, Airbnb Ireland UC alleges that the Information and Privacy Commissioner unreasonably ordered the City of Vancouver to release license numbers and addresses associated with short-term rental licenses in response to a
Freedom of Information request by an unidentified “John Doe requester”. The petition names the City of Vancouver, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia, the Attorney General of British Columbia and John Doe as respondents.
Airbnb says the commissioner erroneously ruled that the records were not subject to sections of the law allowing public bodies to refuse disclosure when disclosure of those records “could reasonably be expected to threaten safety or mental health.” or physique of an individual”. Additionally, the company claims that disclosing the recordings would unreasonably invade a third party’s privacy.
According to the petition, after Vancouver signed an agreement with the company to license operators, Airbnb began providing the city with identifying information, including names, license numbers, email addresses and addresses. “that the city can use to regulate STRs through its bylaws.” However, due to “security and privacy concerns,” the city government does not publish names, addresses, or contact information on its public portal of open data.
Airbnb says plaintiff John Doe made two offers for short-term rental operator information in March 2019. The City of Vancouver initially refused to release the information and the plaintiff requested a review of the decision by the commissioner information and the protection of privacy. The commissioner ordered the records released, saying the City could not deny access to the information “except for records relating to an Airbnb host who is being harassed.” However, the ordinance required the city not to release the names and addresses of the operators.
In seeking to overturn the disclosure order, Airbnb says the commissioner failed to properly determine whether there was a “reasonable expectation of likely harm to personal safety or property.” Both the city and the company presented evidence regarding a host who had feared that “her stalker could locate her if her address and/or name were leaked to the city’s open data portal.”
Additionally, the company says the commissioner ignored the threat of online harassment and cyberbullying, despite concluding that releasing the records to the plaintiff “would be a disclosure to the world.” According to the petition, the plaintiff has disparaged Airbnb operators in social media posts and should post information that could be used to “harass, threaten or abuse” short-term rental operators if their names and addresses become public.
Airbnb is seeking an order quashing the commissioner’s decision and an order restraining the City of Vancouver from disclosing the records. The factual basis of the motion has not been tested in court and the defendants had not filed responses to the case at press time.