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  1. The AchieVer

    Paris to sue Airbnb over 'illegal ads'

    Paris to sue Airbnb over 'illegal ads' Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES The city of Paris is suing Airbnb for €12.5m (£11m) over 1,000 adverts for what it says are illegal rentals. Homeowners in the city can rent out their properties for only 120 days per year. They must register themselves as a business and display their registration number on any advertising. Under French law, companies can be fined up to €12,500 for each advert. Airbnb said the rules in Paris were "inefficient, disproportionate and in contravention of European rules". According to a 2018 report by analyst Statista, Paris was Airbnb's second most popular destination in terms of active rentals, with London in the top spot. On its website Airbnb says that after a property has been booked out for 120 nights in one of the 18 French cities where the rule applies, the calendar will be blocked out so that no more bookings can be made. It also says that every other holiday rental service that is a member of the French holidays homes body, the UNPLV (Union Nationale pour la Promotion de la Location de Vacances), is imposing this automated limit. Speaking to French newspaper Journal du Dimanche, Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, said unauthorised rentals "spoil some Parisian neighbourhoods". Critics of platforms such as Airbnb say they can drive up private rental prices in an area and result in an increase in anti-social behaviour by guests. Speaking to BBC News in 2018, Airbnb said it was important that residents and communities could "benefit from often record numbers of visitors to their cities". Short-term rental restrictions around the world Amsterdam: Entire home rentals limited to 60 days a year, set to be halved Barcelona: Short-term rentals must be licensed but no new licences are being issued Berlin: Landlords need a permit to rent 50% or more of their main residence for a short period London: Short-term rentals for whole homes limited to 90 days a year Palma: Mayor has announced a ban on short-term flat rentals New York City: Usually illegal for flats to be rented for 30 consecutive days or fewer, unless the host is present Paris: Short-term rentals limited to 120 days a year San Francisco: Hosts must obtain business registration and short-term rental certificates. Entire property rentals limited to 90 days a year Singapore: Minimum rental period of six consecutive months for public housing Tokyo: Home sharing legalised in only 2017. Capped at 180 days per year Source
  2. Airbnb acquires Gaest, expands into meeting space rentals The company wants to offer more services for companies and professionals. You might book space for your next event or meeting through Airbnb in the near future. The short-term apartment rental company said on Friday it will acquire Gaest.com, a Danish startup that offers meeting space rentals for periods as short as a several hours or as long as multiple days. Gaest will be folded into Airbnb for Work, the company's effort to enter the workplace market, according to the company's blog post. "We imagine a world where anyone can share their space for professional events," David Holyoke, global head for Airbnb for Work, said in the post. Airbnb has steadily been moving into the business market. Last August, Airbnb rebranded its business travel operations and said that nearly 700,000 companies have had employees sign up and book with Airbnb for Work. In a September blog post, Airbnb said the company would branch out into offsite meeting spaces, team-building experiences and professional relocations. Source
  3. Jeffrey Bigham and his family were about a day into their holiday stay at an Airbnb when he noticed the white security camera that blended in with the corner where the wall met the ceiling. Then he found another camera. As he wrote in a blog post about the experience, he was “shocked” thinking that it was “very likely that my 2-year-old ran in front of this camera naked,” since it probably has a field of view near the bathroom door. He did what many of us would likely do and unplugged the cameras. Bigham’s tale is just one of many Airbnb nightmares to surface over the years, as the company has grown into a viable alternative to hotels around the world. The thing the normalization of Airbnb mutes is just how risky it can be to stay in a complete stranger’s house. According to Bigham’s blog, he looked at the host’s Airbnb post and realized it did state that there were cameras “at the entrance.” But he did not believe that to be an accurate statement, since the cameras were inside the house. One of the many photos of the house also showed one of the cameras. It’s in the top left of the photo Bigham posted on Twitter where he also shared his experience. As you can probably see—or, rather, not see—the white camera is easy to miss in the photo. As Bingham pointed out, it looks like a smoke detector. Bigham wrote that he contacted Airbnb and told them about the camera. He claimed Airbnb said the photo above was a disclosure of the cameras. Then things got weirder, according to Bigham’s post, which says Airbnb told his host he had inquired about the cameras. Bingham included a screen grab of a message the host sent him: Bigham wrote that the host gave him a bad review, and he believes the host also sent someone to “snoop” on his family. “Since posting this, I have heard from many people, both guests and hosts,” Bigham told Gizmodo in an email. “The issue of wifi cameras, privacy, etc., is deeply affecting Airbnb’s users, no one really seems to know what they’re doing, and it seems like it’s only going to get worse.” Bigham told Gizmodo that since his blog brought attention to his experience, Airbnb had decided to refund his stay and told him that the company representatives he spoke with were confused or mistaken. Airbnb did not respond to a Gizmodo request for comment on Bigham’s experience. However, the company shared a statement with Digital Trends: “Our community’s privacy and safety is our priority, and our original handling of this incident did not meet the high standards we set for ourselves.” Digital Trends reports that Airbnb has removed the host from the platform. “We require hosts to clearly disclose any security cameras in writing on their listings and we have strict standards governing surveillance devices in listings,” Airbnb told Digital Trends. The company also told the outlet that surveillance equipment and cameras are only permitted in Airbnb listings if they are visible and have been previously disclosed. Surveillance devices are also never allowed in private areas, like bedrooms and bathrooms, the company said. Airbnb also stated that photos of these devices in the listings are not proper disclosure. Bingham updated his original blog post on Wednesday night to say that he had donated to the Electronic Frontier Foundation after Airbnb refunded his money. He also shared a comment someone wrote about this post; it reads: “I just assume that there will be camera constantly recording when I stay in airbnb, or anywhere really. They [sic] way I never have to worry about whether it exist or not. As recording technology becoming more and more advance, it’s less and less reasonable to expect privacy. I rather adapt my life to fit this new culture.” Of course, we shouldn’t just accept creeping surveillance as that commenter depressingly suggests. But we should be aware that no matter how many good reviews a host has—they’re still a complete stranger. It’s becoming increasingly easier and cheeper for anyone to get surveillance equipment that can be hidden in a house. If you’re staying in a Airbnb, check all the rooms. Look for weird-looking gadgets, like an alarm clock or a smoke detector, that could be masquerading as surveillance equipment. And if you want to be especially cautious, you can buy an RF scanner that should be able to detect cameras. At the very least, check out the corners. Source
  4. Donald Trump's second travel ban fought by tech companies It has become pretty clear at this point that President Trump will not give up on his biased travel ban, so the tech community is once more gathering forces to fight against a policy that would restrict its powers to hire new talents from across the globe. 58 companies have signed the amicus brief submitted to a Hawaii district court on Wednesday. They use this opportunity to denounce Trump's administration's revised travel ban which should go into effect shortly. "The technological and scientific breakthroughs that fuel the economic engine of the country—search, cloud computing, social media, artificial intelligence, faster and faster microprocessors, the Internet of Everything, reusable spacecraft—were all made possible by the ingenuity, imagination and invention of newcomers to America, including Muslims from across the world. Never in modern American history has that infusion of talent and passion and creativity been stanched, as it is vital to the lifeblood of our economy. Never, until now," kicks off the amicus brief. The previous travel ban had a much shorter fuse, and it went into effect almost immediately. Then, the tech industry could do nothing else than to file briefs after the fact, fund legal organizations that fight against government overreach and so on. The resistance The 58 companies want an immediate injunction, saying that the executive order would inflict significant and irreparable harm on US businesses and their employees. The revised ban would temporarily ban access into the United States to people coming from six predominantly Muslim nations, while also cutting down the number of refugees accepted into the United States to 50,000 per year, less than half the number previously accepted. The list of companies that signed the brief includes Airbnb, Dropbox, Electronic Arts, Evernote, Flipboard, Imgur, Indiegogo, Kickstarter, Lyft, MongoDB, Patreon, Pinterest, Quora, Shutterstock, Square, Upwork, Wikimedia Foundation, and the Y Combinator Management, to name a few. Several major players are missing from the list, including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, and Spotify. In fact, this time around there are far fewer companies signing the amicus than there were following the initial "Muslim ban" when 127 signatures adorned the document. Source
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