Online services like Airbnb and Uber like to style themselves as part of the "sharing economy". In truth, they are just new twists on the rental sector, taking advantage of the Internet's widespread availability to broaden participation and ease negotiation. This has led to a tension between the online services and traditional local regulators, something Techdirt noted in the US, back in 2016. Similar battles are still being fought around the world. Here's what is happening in Germany, as reported by Out-Law.com:
The City of Munich asked Airbnb to provide it with all advertisements for rooms in the city which exceeded the permissible maximum lease period [of eight weeks in a calendar year]. Specifically, for the period from January 2017 to July 2018, it wanted Airbnb to disclose the addresses of the apartments offered as well as the names and addresses of the hosts.
Airbnb challenged the request before the administrative court in Munich, which has just ruled that the US company must comply with German laws, even though its European office is based in Ireland. It said that the request was lawful, and did not conflict with the EU's privacy regulations. Finally, it ruled that the City of Munich's threat to impose a €300,000 fine on Airbnb if it did not comply with its information request was also perfectly OK. Presumably Airbnb will appeal against the decision, but if it is confirmed it could encourage other cities in Germany to make similar requests. At least things there aren't as bad as in China. According to a post from TechNode:
The eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang will require online home-sharing platforms, including Airbnb, to report owner and guest information to the province's Public Security Department. The platforms will need to check, register, and report the identity of both parties, including the time the guest plans to arrive and leave the property.
That information provides a very handy way of keeping tabs on people travelling around the province who stay in Airbnb properties and the like. It's yet another example of how the Chinese authorities are forcing digital services to help keep an eye on every aspect of citizens' lives.
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