How the ‘Sharing’ Economy Erodes Both Privacy and Trust

To participate in services like Airbnb, you have to expose yourself.

Comments: 161

  1. "These commercial endeavors are changing our attitudes toward private moments and private spaces. We’re encouraged to view privacy not as a desirable haven from the relentless exposure of public life, but as a zone of peril, an opportunity for untrustworthy behavior." It's not surprising that the Airbnb business model would require this. People are opening their homes to strangers and need some assurance that an axe murderer hasn't booked a room. Staying at a conventional hotel is more private and more expensive. One of the downsides of the gig economy is less trust, less privacy. Ironic in its way, that a room in a private home is less private.

  2. If people really thought about things, they’d never rent their place with AirBnB nor ride in an ‘uber’ car. As a child, wasn’t anybody taught not to get into a car with a stranger? Do you want complete strangers coming into your house while you’re gone? For some reason, because there is an ‘app’ for it, people forget everything they were taught as a kid.

  3. @Matthew S ~ I totally agree with you. I've never taken a ride via uber and would never ever rent out a room in my house through AirBnB.

  4. @Matthew S Yellow cab drivers can drive the long way, be rude and definitely strangers regardless of their certificate posted in the cab. No fan of the hustle.

  5. It is not surprising that the generations born after the 1970's have a need for privacy, safety, and protection. One of the hallmarks of these individuals is having a childhood in which one is overprotected, controlled with stifling play dates, and given almost no alone time, either on weekends or after school. So of course, the skills they might have learned and emotional maturity gained by creating their own independent worldview was never allowed to take shape. If I may comment a bit further, in terms of my own AIR BNB experience, I have rented no rooms in houses, but private rentals on four occasions. And on two of them I was lied to (not told of major construction) and on another I ended up in a houseboat in Amsterdam, which was barely bigger than a walk in closet. Only in a casita in Mexico did the owner deliver as promised.

  6. @boji3 that houseboat in a canal in Amsterdam sounds like a (tiny) special place. I AirBnB'd a houseboat in Key Largo that was tiny as well, but required me to conjure up my Tenderfoot activities from 50 yrs ago! It was very private place

  7. I don't understand why people continually use the term "sharing" for these commercial activities. There is nothing sharing about it - it is all about rentals and making money, whether rides, bikes, scooters, or places to stay overnight. The term "sharing" was a scam perpetrated by Uber to get around normal regulation and oversight.

  8. It was the companies themselves that started using those terms. Insidious, no?

  9. @Larry Figdill The term "sharing" as currently used is a "feel good" marketing concept with no basis in reality. When I call for a ride via Uber or Lyft I'm not sharing the ride with anyone, unless they're riding with me to the same place. "Ride sharing" as I remember it from my college days in the early 1970's was a means of getting from here to there with a number of other people who were headed in more or less the same direction and we would share the cost of the trip with the driver.

  10. @Larry Figdill "Will you share your vehicle with me, for a ride across town?" "Will you share your vacation home with me while I am on vacation" The answers: Yes.. for a fee. If you are expecting the term "sharing" to mean no exchange of assets or resources.. you have no understanding of the term.

  11. Ronald Reagan said of the Soviets and nuclear arms reduction treaties, “Trust, but verify”. It was a poor choice of words; the verification was needed because the Soviets couldn’t be trusted. Mr. Laurence points out that in the “sharing” economy, the sacrifice of privacy does not bring trust. He is right. But this is not new. We all sacrifice privacy in two-party exchanges. Bankers run credit checks on would-be borrowers, who open their past to scrutiny. Landlords do the same to would-be tenants. Would-be teachers are subject to periodic criminal record checks. It’s not perfect. Borrowers sometimes fail to repay. And there are a (very) few Uber and Lyft drivers, though checked, still sometimes assault women who get in their cars. Nor is trust always perfect. Consider those who entrusted their kids to priests or relatives who abused them, who entrusted financial experts with their savings only to lose them. So no, lack of privacy does not create trust, but does enable transactions that otherwise would not be possible. Mr. Laurence is correct in saying that continuous monitoring violates privacy in a qualitatively new way, e.g. the tracker that a controlling husband puts on his wife’s phone, or the 24/7 nanny-cam. That is truly dystopian. Another point he fails to mention is that with the “sharing” economy, it is a 3rd party that has access to both parties’ information, and their use of it is subject to few or no controls and is highly subject to abuse.

  12. Trust... And verify. Right.

  13. I barely trust myself half the time, how could I trust someone else?

  14. Countless serious problems have happened within the gig industry, including homes wrecked by AirBnB guests, Uber passengers assaulted, WAG dog walkers or the dogs they walk lost and/or injured and so much more. If oversight results in less privacy for customers and clients, I’ll accept that. There’s too much potential for disaster in these unregulated industries, with untrained and poorly vetted workers.

  15. "Faith in the decency and trust of others?" In a society where the mere photograph of two young sisters wearing hijabs raises hackles and an outpouring of fear, bigotry and hatred? Do we have any faith left in ourselves? Or have we always been a fearful nation? Is the only difference now that white people have become more fearful, as minorities have always felt? Time to look in the mirror America and ask some tough questions of ourselves.

  16. We are living in a infested paranoia . Privacy is only a word. Even if you stop using all technology available, and decide to move to the most remote places, to be free from everything, they still going to track you. We lost forever our privacy.

  17. The real story is not about whether we feel so insecure that we are prepared to give up privacy, it is what are the political dynamics - left unresolved by voter apathy - driving new forms of exploitation. I have a full time job with enough so that I don't have to rent out rooms in my house to make ends meet. I could, but it is not worth it to me. When I travel, I can afford a hotel, and don't need to risk staying with strangers. Folks who work just as hard as me but get paid less don't have these privileges. So they enter into arrangements that may have a very steep price for them (lost privacy) to make/save a little money and someone else (e.g., the owners of AirBNB) can make a buck, risk-free. Just one permutation of the new exploitation economy in which powerful people are unaccountable to the public interest while they daily come up with new slick ways of exploiting or fleecing the populace while politicians applaud or do nothing. This is the world we have created by not participating in civic life.

  18. @Jsw Vote. It doesn’t help. Oligarchs make sure we have a choice between their A and their B and that’s it.

  19. I sense your perspective is personal. I'm retired and financially comfortable. I own a cottage on my property which I use for family and friends, but I also list it on AirBnB. I do enjoy meeting the people - and the cash. Perhaps it lets me feel like I'm still contributing to society during my retired state When I travel, I never use a hotel anymore. Yet I have never felt comfortable using Uber or Lyft. I will say that I've not been impressed with Airbnb as a company who is interested in the success or safety of their hosts. I do believe, however, that somewhere "out there" somebody will create vacation rental or transportation companies platforms which will provide more security, privacy, and safety. Our current "loss" of privacy is a 'growing pain'.

  20. @Jsw What I find curious is that the only people posting who DON'T seem to care about the loss of privacy are people who are either very rich or have an ulterior motive to keeping this new system. IMHO, those AREN'T valid reasons for keeping that system.

  21. One serious problem with our present-day surveillance society is that the surveillance is largely directed the wrong way: from the top down. We are left with a situation in which those who pull the corporate and government strings of surveillance are themselves operating in the dark. A healthy state of societal checks-and-balances in a functional democracy would include transparency (read "surveillance") of government and corporate actions.

  22. @Michael So true! It is not a two way street. For example, in applying for a job a person may be asked to submit a credit report. Employers can evaluate and eliminate potential employees based on their credit report. Eleven states (mainly blue of course) have laws that prohibit or restrict pulling credit reports. Transparency is a one way street, we can't even get our President to disclose his taxes yet someone applying for a minimum wage job may be asked to submit a credit report. Good luck saying no and still getting the job.

  23. Skeptical people are wise people.

  24. Algorithms should not substitute my judgement of whom to trust. Sure, they can provide useful information about the other party in a transaction or relationship, but I have to use my own judgement as to trusting another. If I don't like AirBnB's or Uber's model, I can always opt out.

  25. Another example of the constant monitoring that people are subjected to - the requests for feedback after every interaction - every telephone call that asks us to hold and evaluate the person who just helped us - every lyft ride that asks us to evaluate the ride on 4 or 5 factors - it's outrageous that we have moved so extensively in this direction - "would you hire the person you just spoke with" - I think constant monitoring is oppressive and ultimately very depressing.

  26. @MN: There's a "Black Mirror" episode that is entirely about this. Perhaps you've seen it. If not, worth looking up.

  27. @MN it’s happening with Doctors now. I have to stop using email.

  28. @MN Yes, it is too much. Why should we have to react to everything, right away, and publicize our reactions (in terms of ratings and short reviews)? It's ridiculous, annoying, and destructive.

  29. Currently their are hotels and cabs in every major city in this country. They might be a little more costly but you have security and when you get in the cab, dispatch knows where you are. You put your key in the hotel room, you lock/bolt the door and you feel safe. We put ourselves at risk when you try to participate in services that are not within the legal constraints. When you travel in life you need to know how to protect yourself, just because something is cheap doesn't mean it is gong to work for you.

  30. @Tony Just because its expensive and/or has a lot of name recognition doesn't mean its going to work either. What does cost or reputation have to do w airlines or the quality of a product. Branding doesn't mean very much. How many brands have you liked and within a year the products have lost their identity...made in sweat shops...copies of themselves. airbnb is good enough so is uber. The travel industry is way overpriced.

  31. Tracking someone with an app is trustLESS. It's to help you function in a low trust society, which we now live in.

  32. I called a restaurant, made dinner reservations and gave them my phone number. In a matter of minutes I got a confirmation email from a company I never heard of. How did this company get my email address? What else do they know about me? I don't remember authorizing anyone to share this information. I asked them these questions but they never responded.

  33. And worse, no one cares, except maybe Consumer Reports. Maybe send them a few bucks and tell them your story.

  34. @David The nearest pizza place won't take phone orders and you can't walk in and order, you have to do it all online.

  35. @David Did you still eat at the restaurant?

  36. This reminds me of those letters you get in the mail marked as being from your automobile’s manufacturer that tell you there is very important vehicle information inside, but when you open it, it’s about how much of a big fat trade in deal a dealership is willing to cut you if you buy a new car from them... If the very first contact with a business is based on dishonesty or misrepresentation of the nature of the business, what do you think the remainder of your interactions will be based on? It might be simplistic, but any service that portrays itself as “sharing” is being dishonest. The moment money changes hands, there is no “sharing”, it’s a business transaction... period. From the moment a “sharing” service portrays itself as such it has misrepresented its fundamental business model and all other aspects or claims of service and responsibility must be viewed as suspect. Just assume they will deceive you, cheat you or fail to deliver whatever they imply they will provide. People reward deception by ignoring it for a temporary convenience. Every time people do business with companies that base their existence on deceiving consumers, it is a dangerous step backwards for consumer rights and even citizen’s rights as it sends a message to corrupt politicians that people are gullible and don’t care about being cheated or deceived.

  37. It is the age old argument where innovation stands off against the traditional beliefs. The consumer of each of such services (Uber, Airbnb, dog-walking apps) is at the liberty of not consuming them. However, that risks "missing out" on participation in the progressive economy; a consequence of which would be another Times article on non-egalitarian consumer rights.

  38. Yes. Myself and many others choose not to play the game with Airbnb Uber and Facebook and our lives are just fine. Maybe it makes sense to keep your children and grandchildren's pictures off the web in today's world of infinite unregulated facial recognition internet sweeping programs. Maybe make it a little harder for the post Trump era Big Brother autocracy to trace them. At least until the mandatory "chip" implant.

  39. Thanks very much for the reference to "cynical manipulation" early in your timely article. Terms such as "sharing economy" and "gig economy" reek of the kind of euphemisms Orwell knew so well. "Sharing": how could any decent person recoil in the face of such a term, suggesting, as it seems to, being open, friendly, giving, a fine citizen? Join the anti-capitalist team, right now! Just ignore the inconvenient fact that far from being anti-capitalist, the "sharing economy" underwrites a favorite pro-capitalist desire: to abolish governmental regulations and oversight. And oh the magic of "the gig economy"! We know who has "gigs": up and coming musicians and other performers. But now you can join the gig family, whatever your level of experience or skill, whatever your designs on your customers. Plus, your audience is stuck in your rig or house, and now you know much more about them than they do about you. The Snake Oil salespeople for the "Sharing" and "Gig" "Economies" could move on to [or perhaps have come from] being sellers of the Brooklyn Bridge.

  40. @teach In the trickster language employed by these companies, I hear echoes of both the former snake oil salesmen of the Midwest fairs and the language of the Manson cult and other groups that manipulate up as down. No one is sharing in any of these transactions, they're legally contracted, paid services masquerading as cool in order to obscure their problems. Not for nothing are they aimed at young people who may lack life experience with the art of the con.

  41. airbnb is a scam is evade the regulatory controls on the hotel and motel industry. Just like the "ride sharing' ("no one shares for free") scam, it's a way around laws and licensing. There is NO SECURITY with airbnb and its copiers, and neighbors have to put up with absurd, outrageous and many times illegal behavior from crowds of total strangers, and those people have simply lied about their intentions, leaving local law enforcement to provide "security" when things get out of hand (and they do!). NO MORE airbnb!

  42. I don't participate in any of these sharing services. I don't use Uber or Lyft or AirBnB or Facebook or any social media. I'm 63 years old and grew up expecting the right of privacy. I make decisions on a case by case basis whether I tell anyone my phone number or even my name! I don't trust any of these companies to do the right thing and even if they say it's all about increasing trust, I don't buy it. As Bloomberg said, I'm from New York, and I know a con when I see it... They want your personal information to use in some way they can profit from...

  43. @sfdphd I hate to break it to you, but even if you avoid social media entirely, it's extremely likely that the likes of Google and Amazon have lengthy "catalogs" containing your personal information. Literally almost all of Google's revenue comes from ad sales, both on its own websites and over 95% of ALL websites that carry graphical banners: it bought DoubleClick, a company that had a near-monopoly on such ads, nearly 15 years ago. As such, its "cookies" are stored on your browser and track basically everything you do online. While yes, you can deactivate cookies on your web browser, that would also render numerous websites entirely unusable: while The Times's site is mostly subscription-based, on whole the vast majority of content-based sites rely on ad revenue to support them (and actively block people who either have cookies deactivated or use ad-blocking browser add-ons). Having previously worked as an online media producer, I know at the very least that Google can – with near-perfect precision – provide any publisher with targeted ads aimed exclusively at, for instance, Manhattan residents (within specific ZIP codes) between 45-64 years of age who have owned an apartment for at least a decade, travel internationally at least three times per year, and read online news outlets such as, yep, The New York Times at least five days per week. In short, if you use the internet, any belief that you have "privacy" is basically false. (Meaning pretty much for everyone.)

  44. There is no sharing with AirBNB, Uber etc. They all charge money so are for profit organizations. You're just dealing with a different business model than traditional hostelry and transport for hire. Only a fool is dumb enough to walk into those "sharing" situations thinking they are the same risk level as the traditional industries they compete with. I've been on this earth long enough to know that bright and shiny does not equate to good.

  45. The computer technologies are our new shackles. How many times have you heard someone say "the computer won't let me do that" What we should be saying is "the corporate owners will not let me do that". They program the computer. They set the rules the computer is just the shackle to make sure they are obeyed. Soon our toilets will be connected to the internet.

  46. Huh. Think of the advertising possibilities! (Wishing this was just bad bathroom humour.)

  47. @Richard Fried Analyses of your output and coupons for applicable products arriving within minutes of a flush.

  48. As a woman sometimes traveling alone I am more comfortable with traditional cab companies than a "ride share" because the drivers give up their privacy when they apply to be licensed and controlled. Interesting how that was never considered an issue. Re. Airbnb, I've found it to be a portal to more human connection because I often get to meet my hosts, local folks who are friendly and helpful. It makes the travel experience more personal. I don't mind telling about myself in advance - after all, I am a stranger applying to stay in their home.

  49. @JS I do prefer staying in someone's house for just that reason. But I am uncomfortable with everything that's done on the AirBnB site becoming a part of my permanent record.

  50. "As a woman sometimes traveling alone I am more comfortable with traditional cab companies than a 'ride share' because the drivers give up their privacy when they apply to be licensed and controlled." @JS Interesting – this is typically the opposite response people give when it comes to ride-hail drivers. Both Uber & Lyft have come under significant criticism – particularly over the past year – for purportedly not doing *enough* to check a given driver's background to protect against potential criminal behavior against passengers. This is why, for instance, Uber now re-runs criminal background checks on a *daily* basis for all of its US-based drivers: to ensure they're kept off the platform if they're arrested for a crime such as DUI or assault. I've interviewed hundreds of ride-hail drivers as part of my work, and I have yet to hear even one complain that this was in any way an invasion of their privacy. I've also interviewed a number of people who were the victims of assault or attempted assault during the course of a taxi ride. Contrary to popular conception, taxi drivers undergo far *lesser* background verifications than anyone driving for Uber or Lyft. Put more simply: should "protecting drivers' privacy" – even when the drivers themselves *don't* view it as such – take precedence over protecting passengers from drivers with a demonstrated background of criminal convictions? That appears to be what you're arguing, and as such an area where I must disagree.

  51. I think you’re overreacting. Way overreacting. Most of us lost our “privacy” , whatever that means, the moment we used our first credit card or use a telephone or online banking, etc. etc. This ‘privacy you talk about is long gone, it’s an illusion. I recently retired with a small pension and not much savings but I’m able to travel the world extensively thanks to airbnb and Uber. I rent my house when I’m gone and that more than pays for the beautiful places I’m able to get in Europe and Mexico, and Uber is extremely cheap for me in Mexico. Who cares about privacy. Privacy doesn’t give me joy, airbnb does.

  52. @Jorge Romero The fact that we traded away a lot of privacy before we knew what hit us is no reason to continue the trend. For some of us, both privacy and trust are of the highest value, and not to be bartered for money. Rental services and ride-hailing apps shouldn't be confused with the tangible items they purport to represent. There is more than one way to structure these services, and we as "consumers" can demand something different. As far as travel is concerned, public transportation, bicycles, and good shoes are all that is needed. Fortunately, one can still hail a ride from a taxi or jitney the old fashioned way in much of the world, including Mexico. If these alternatives don't work, there is another option: staying home. If we want these other forms of services to remain, we have to as a society be willing to pay for them, and use them. Otherwise, we will be steered further and further into programmed consumer behaviors under the guise of choice.

  53. Just because you don’t value something doesn’t mean I’m wrong for valuing it. While not explicitly defined in the U.S. constitution, legal precedent has definitely established a right to privacy in our country. Nobody is forcing you to be private. I don’t care if you want every detail of your life to be public. However, when you claim that others don’t have a right to nor an expectation of privacy, I have a serious problem with that.

  54. @Matthew S I completely agree. I am tired of that argument that we have already given it all up and to just deal with it. I still value my privacy and I do not like the idea that my face is used by store chains to maintain a customer service score for me. I don't like the idea that someone on the other side of the country can learn exactly where I live and where I go by access phone records. Yes, this happens, but it doesn't mean we have to happily open our files to corporations or the government. Would these same people be okay with me just walking into their house and look in their drawers and file cabinets?

  55. There is a difference between developing trust in an ongoing personal or business relationship, and creating peace of mind in an ad hoc or one-time transactional one. Before the Internet, people relied on references to check a job applicant’s truthfulness or a nanny’s track record. We also “trusted” getting into a taxi or staying at a hotel based on the fact that the taxi driver has been licensed by the municipality and that the hotel owner carried out proper vetting and training of their employees. But now the “sharing” economy platforms have been allowed (so far) to cede responsibility, requiring new ways to establish trust on the fly. I don’t think the issue here is that we are becoming less trusting. It’s that the economic models are changing, and corporate responsibility is fast becoming a thing of the past.

  56. @Ahmed I think that there is less trust now than there was, especially of people who may not want their lives to be an open book on the internet. I think that this is a trend that is accelerating in some parts of the country that will result in people being denied service because he or she does not want to have a Facebook or Instagram account. Many people already think that those who are concerned about privacy, both online and in the real world, have something to hide. This feeds into that sentiment.

  57. @Ahmed Ironically, these ostensibly "trusted" taxi drivers & hotel workers undergo far less preemployment scrutiny – not to mention ongoing checks as workers – than any average Uber or Lyft driver. I discovered this myself a few years ago when a reporter friend in another city started looking into Uber & Lyft after they'd entered his market without prior regulatory approval and with a significant uproar from the local taxi industry. He went in assuming (probably like most) that Uber & Lyft do little to no background-check verification, and basically allow any Tom, Dick & Harry onto their respective platforms. This particular story has two twists. First, my friend's initial impressions about the caliber of their background checks were sorely mistaken: while they don't perform fingerprint-based searches, their electronic ones are vastly broader in scope. (Up to 40% of all print-based checks are believed to be false positives or false negatives – in the FBI's opinion!) The second twist was far more alarming IMO: as it turned out, these "trusted" taxi company background checks were limited in scope SOLELY to a single state! An applicant could *literally* be a convicted killer the next state over and still get a job! City officials were mortified when the story came out: they changed their background checks for cabbies & discovered 30% of *active* ones had one or more felony convictions in other states!! Something to maybe chew on before castigating "sharing economy" workers.

  58. As a user of Airbnb and large hotel chains, Lyft and hailed taxis, both have significant benefits and risks. (Don't be fooled by the supposed safety of a large hotel.) But when it comes to privacy, I'm a skeptic of it all. We know our computers and cell phones can listen and even watch us. Who's to say that our Airbnb and hotel hosts aren't doing the same? And to take it even further, do new parents dismantle the baby cams when the child gets older (and what about when granny babysits ?) Or do they start watching junior and friends? On the bright side, maybe home cams eliminate the "he said/she said" problem that has resulted in the predatory behavior of harvey & co. Personally, I assume I could be monitored at any time and it's only going to continue. I try to live accordingly. "Behind closed doors" doesn't exist in 2020. Time to come up with a realistic vision for privacy protection.

  59. I am glad that Uber lets me tell my family when I am going to be home and lets them track me in a foreign city. Same for when my daughter rides alone and uses it.

  60. @E Campbell I don't like that feature at all. Who else could be tracking you or your daughter.

  61. @E Campbell How exactly does the tracking protect you if there actually is an emergency situation? We all tend to assume that immediate precise knowledge implies safety. This simply isn't true and is can be even more dangerous, as it causes one to let their guard down.

  62. @dlb I agree. I think that this also gives people a false sense of security. If something awful were to happen to someone in an Uber car, what can anyone who's hundreds of miles away do about it? Maybe the terrible thing is already done. People need to be more aware of what they are doing and how they're doing it and not rely on Big Brother to watch and take care of them. Which brings to mind Uber versus taxis. Are taxi drivers given a background check? Are they more trustworthy than a random Uber driver?

  63. While the point of the article is well taken and certainly not without merit, I think it's also a little off target. The evolving world of on line everything allows for transactions to occur between utter and complete strangers. So yes, all of our neighbors have the keys to our house and we have theirs - we've lived side by side for years or decades, celebrated holidays, birthdays and weddings together. The Uber driver is a completely unknown quantity and does not either engender or deserve any trust - at least not automatically and not in the time it takes to get one ride from A to B. And I say that after one of our Uber driver's helped us get from the wrong B to the right B in just enough time with added directions on how to get from B to C where we really needed to be. So yes, I'm ok with "monitoring" of the contracts until such time as trust is earned. And I even agree with the airBnb CEO's lack of trust, although I will hopefully never use airBnb again for other reasons.

  64. “Sharing economy “ is a marketing phrase and implies something that doesn’t exist. The difference is that there is a new middleman in the mix. As an example: Airbnb is a bed and breakfast platform. BnBs used to get licenses from local authorities (depending on where in the world the bed and breakfast was located) and were inspected and assessed on an annual basis. The local authority would take a percentage or fee. As a customer you would know exactly what you were getting and where to go if something went wrong and you could speak to someone in person. Airbnb took this concept and widened the usage platform. However, the vetting process and safety checks were lessened and there are fewer protections in this new business model. We all seem to be losing in this new economy.

  65. “Airbnb took this concept and widened the usage platform. However, the vetting process and safety checks were lessened and there are fewer protections in this new business model. We all seem to be losing in this new economy.” Kim, I agree there’s a loss (of assurances of safety) but there’s also a corresponding win (saving money and increased options/convenience.) Airbnb units are certainly less expensive than hotel rooms and I suspect they are also less expensive than official regulated bed-and-breakfasts. In addition, I imagine that Airbnb units tend to be located throughout cities, providing more geographic options. I just see it as a classic case of trade-offs. These trade-offs, by the way, can happen even within regulated businesses. For example, many years ago I stayed in the most unappealing hotel I’ve ever experienced, in Paris. However, it was in a superb location and the price was less than half of even lower-priced hotels in that neighborhood, and I was on a tight budget so, for me, the trade-off was worth it.

  66. When I stay at in a major hotel, I have a sense of security because I know hundreds of safety measures are there. I pay a premium for that. When I stay at an AriBnB, I do not have those assurances. I am glad they conduct a background check and other measures even if it means the owner has to give up a level of privacy. This is the same level of privacy lost if they were applying for a mortgage or buying a car. This is not a story about privacy lost. It is a story of profits made. It is cheaper to put up a nanny cam than to do a complete background check on a new hire. Is it cheaper to have potential AirBnB host submit an application with photos than to have an inspector visit the house (as would happen if the owner was selling the house). Maybe companies are simply playing into consumer paranoia by allowing them to monitor every movement. The reality is that the company is simply passing the task of monitoring onto the consumer rather than taking the time and money to take full responsibility for the action of its gig workers.

  67. @Cab Safe, except for the hidden camera.

  68. @Cab An Airbnb host is not a "gig worker" – which I say as an Airbnb host. I work in management consulting and spend extended amounts of time traveling for work, and I rent out my condo on Airbnb while gone. (I have a local co-host who greets guests & oversees clean-up and changing the linens between stays.) I realize "bad apple" hosts get the lion's share of media coverage, but the far bigger problem on whole is problematic *guests*. Yes, Airbnb hosts undergo background checks – not that I'm ever personally present when I rent out my place on a whole-unit basis, but still – much like Uber & Lyft drivers do, but it's still amazingly easy even for people with serious criminal histories to book a stay at an Airbnb (or use Uber or Lyft as a passenger). The companies could fairly easily check the backgrounds of all their *users* (not just workers, in other words), but you're right – albeit perhaps not in the fashion you intended: this is a story of profits made, not privacy lost, and there are legitimate questions about whether those of us allowing ostensible strangers into our homes (or vehicles) merit at least *some* degree of protection against known criminals. Just FYI, I'd be booted off Airbnb entirely if I stashed any type of "nanny cam" or surveillance device inside my home (and a guest reported it). The same can't be said about guests who break or steal my things: how can you "prove" a guest took something if there's no video or photographic evidence of it?

  69. This is why people who work with data, create content or participate in sharing data should be paid for their activities. Instead of today's Wild Wild West of data surveillance, we need regulatory guidance and a framework for how people can be compensated for their data. It is unlikely companies will stop profiting from consumers' data. But it is feasible for people to be compensated for the technology they use and their contributions to companies' profits.

  70. Platforms like AirBnb, who promote “transparency”, are only giving this concept lip service. One of the major ideas of booking a place you can trust to be as presented, is the user reviews. The guest’s review and the owner’s review will be published after both of you have submitted a review. It is so easy to circumvent the user review process. As an owner of an Airbnb, if I suspect I will get a bad review from a guest, all I have to do is not write my own review and nothing ever gets published. As a frequent guest, I have seen this happen twice. I suspect the same happens if you are bad bad guest. Just don’t ever respond to the review and nothing gets published. Luckily as an owner I have never had this happen to me. The peer review process is great idea in promoting transparency, you just have to make it want to work more than you want to collect commissions.

  71. @Dan Mullendore Unless the system has changed since I hosted AirBnB this isn’t so. I almost never wrote reviews for guests. Why should I bother? But they wrote reviews of me, which were published. Mostly ok, but a few flat out insulting. I quit because I was sick of this endless assessment. I rented a bedroom in my house, and guests had the use of the whole rest of my house as any guest, family or friends who were staying. These few seemed to think that they were getting a hotel room and that I was the maid—and they didn’t think anything of being incredibly rude and insulting. One even left a tip. I thought I was ‘sharing’—but that isn’t the way AirBnB, or other ‘sharing’ services operate. You’re a contractor, hiring yourself out to do menial work.

  72. @Dan Mullendore We have only been guests and have also seen this happen twice. One last minute reservation had many five star reviews and only one bad one which was completely true. We survived because we spent most of our time at our son's. When he saw it, he explained that it was meant for large groups of young people who only cared about low cost when split ten ways. Our review, which was not as negative as it could have been, was not published because I'm sure the owner who had a number of properties understood how it worked. I wonder why the negative review got through. The other time, the owner was generally unresponsive, so I guessed he wouldn't bother, but we liked the place. Definitely easy to abuse the system.

  73. @Dan Mullendore That is not how AirBNB reviews work at all. After 14 days a review (guest's or host's) gets posted even if the other party did not write a review. The review process of on-line platforms tends to be very well thought out to prevent abuses. AirBNB's is one of the best.

  74. How much privacy can one expect on a crowded planet with 8 billion people and growing ? If you're obsessed with vain privacy you face a future of disappointment and fear.

  75. The author makes some valid points, but the use of AirBnB as an example isn't helpful. What landlord ever didn't want some evidence that the renter is going to pay and not trash the property or perpetrate other mischief? Have landlords throughout history been abusing the privacy of their tenants? When you buy a house, do you object to putting the payments in escrow? Is that a violation of your privacy? It's only logical: certain domains require sacrificing some privacy in order for business to proceed smoothly. I don't see a slippery slope, here, brought about by the new ways that technology is being use to transact business. This article reads more like a paranoid rant than an insightful analysis of trust, privacy, and technology.

  76. @MikeG With AirBnB the rental fee is paid in advance so I don't understand what more evidence is required that the rental fee will be paid.

  77. @moondoggie That’s true, but we’ve had a landlord do a background check (it was her requirement for all renters) to assure her that we weren’t criminals. I didn’t mind, as she gave us a copy of the report.

  78. @MikeG Another Employee of the Month candidate. Good luck!

  79. The ‘more trusting’ world which preceded the appearance of services like Uber and AirBnB was not actually more trusting at all. It was the mid 2000s, and the only difference between then and now was that back then you would never step into a stranger’s car or sleep in a stranger’s house without some independent verification that this stranger could be trusted. Which, in practice, you could almost never get. The idea that you can have trust without a means of surveillance, without a means of independent verification, is total naïveté. If you want to go back to a ‘more trusting’ world, just move to a small town, where everyone knows everyone, everyone is under surveillance from everyone, and as a consequence, everyone knows who can or cannot be trusted. At the end of the day, what a service like AirBnB actually does is to provide people living in a large, anonymous society the ability to accumulate reputation, allowing them to prove to strangers that they can be trusted.

  80. A new division in our society is between people who opt into the sharing economy as well as the growing internet of things and people who don't. I consider myself in the latter group. But it is creating two different lifestyles, a more digital lifestyle and a minimized digital lifestyle. Two big risks of the digital lifestyle are erosion of privacy and hacking. The minimized digital lifestyle is more private and safer from hackers but is less convenient.

  81. The minimalist sharing lifestyle will be an option only for the upper middle class and higher. In the lower jobs, not having a significant amount of friends on social media and positive reviews is already a flag today.

  82. " .... the design of our digital economy is steadily eroding the temperamental qualities that we need in order to treasure privacy at all: our tolerance for opaqueness, uncertainty and disconnectedness — and our faith in the decency of others." Disclosure: In my retirement as technology executive I have been driving for Uber (2500 rides) and currently hosting AirBNB (150 guests). I have never rejected a ride or a guest nor have I ever read a guest profile before accepting someone into my home or car. My view is diagonally opposite to the one stated. In all my interactions I did not have a single "very bad" and only a few unpleasant interactions. My faith in the decency of others is stronger because of "sharing". The idea is very simple: One is allowed on the platform for AirBnB or Uber because there is a history of behaving well. Otherwise one is ejected of the platform. Uber recently revealed sexual harassment complaints. They were statistically irrelevant. Of course there are incidents - as there are incidents in hotels and taxis.

  83. @Jzu I'm sure the victims of sexual harassment are relieved to know the problem is "statistically irrelevant."

  84. Either "all in" or "all out" for social media and public profiles, documenting life 24/7. "All out" works with just a bit of discipline — and take satisfaction when you answer "I'm not on LinkedIn (or Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or (fill in the blank)."

  85. The problem is that this transparency is imposed from outside. The participants had no say in it. It's one thing if you volunteered but the reality is that peer pressure enforces it. To be the odd one out is a difficult choice and requires the strength of character many people don't possess.

  86. Sometimes I think we overstate the difference in these new technologies. Today, we call it "airbnb." In the 1930s, it was called "taking in lodgers." The basic economics of the situation really aren't that different. Nannies in the 1800s often came with a letter of introduction from their previous employer. In fact, it is the fact that "letters of introduction" have faded (as companies become afraid of lawsuits for badmouthing a previous employee) that necessitates this extra digging. I don't know that we've ever been more trusting, or less trusting. It is the nature of urban environments that we need to interact with strangers. Then, as now, we gain information we as best we can and put the rest to trust.

  87. Thanks for this, fascinating and true. The current generation of tech-savvy kids associate all solutions with data. We handed them that world, sadly. They'll have to experiment with it on their own and decide -- as I think they will in 10 or 20 years -- that this kind of monitoring is invasive. They'll probably have an anti-tech backlash similar to the folk/hippie backlash in the 1960s, refuting the post-war commercialism of the 1950s. Anyway, I'm in the wrong demographic because I unplug my Alexa when I don't use it. Cranky old boomer.

  88. It is not just Airbnb, it is the model. The current internet model means your data is not on your personal device -- unlike back in the day when we had PC's and no Internet. Browsers are the barrier to entry -- we do not have a browser that allows you to store information on your device ONLY and yet interface with it, other than cookies. Gee, I wonder why? Browsers are provided by the very same companies who benefit the most by storing, fronting, and harvesting that data.

  89. “In order to participate in services like his, Mr. Chesky argues, you need to expose yourself. It’s a model of consumerism that depends on customers’ transparency.” These businesses are unregulated. Therefore, there is no room for trust. There have been many examples of this conundrum.

  90. I'm still asked if I'm on Facebook all the time. When I say no, I'm looked at askance. When I return the same look to them, they always say that they know it is awful and shouldn't really be on it either. Every single time. But there they are, better to be seen as conformist than not. All of us making the same mistake somehow makes us a better part of the whole? The default is, yes, we've all made the deal with the devil, so you are treated suspiciously if you have not "joined" the rest of us in this pact. Would I ever get a job now without myself being plastered all over the internet? Probably not. I'm lucky enough that I don't need any social medial for my profession career, like to stay in hotels, had a good grasp on the people that I wanted to stay in touch with before the internet, and actually have the odd desire to buy a phone that actually makes "good" phone calls. So do not have a single social medial account. Luddite or fortuitous, none of it enhances my well being or pocketbook. People still get information to me, I've yet to miss a meeting, and feel free to text me a photo of your kids. I just miss out on the picture of that morning mocha design you thought I should see. Every single day.

  91. To people in the United States their credit rating is all important. Yet this credit rating is a product, made and distributed by a private, for profit industry. Here in Germany you get a mortgage or other loan from your 'Hausbank', the bank you usually do business with, which knows and trusts you. If they offer you a bad deal on that mortgage, you take your custom across town to another bank, which will be your new 'Hausbank'. How much money my bank will lend me, is not a product. My bank can't tell anybody, or sell this information. They would be violating German banking secrecy law, if they did. More and more, Germans are using credit cards, or other 'modern' forms of mobile payment, rather than paying cash. But again, most credit cards Germans carry are provided to them by their 'Hausbank', and are actually charge cards, not credit cards. Any loan is owed to the 'Hausbank', not the "big-three" American credit card companies. Neither do the big-three American credit card companies decide whether a local store or restaurant here in Germany will give me a discount or VIP treatment. If the so-called 'sharing' economy has its way, pretty soon everybody in the United States will have a "social rating". Just like the credit rating, this will be a product made and distributed by a private, for profit industry. And if your rating isn't good enough, you won't even be able to get a date.

  92. I suppose I am not a good fit in this new era of replacing one's personal survival signals or "gift of fear" with technology. The notion of staying overnight in a stranger's home or a stranger staying in my home is a nonstarter. How do people get comfortable with that idea? How do they relax and fall asleep? If an uber rider climbs into the back of Ted Bundy 2.0's vehicle overlooking the missing passenger seat (hey, the driver was vetted by uber, right?), what good is tracking software when said person turns up missing and Mr Bundy has moved on to another state? uber of course will deny any liability.

  93. Actually it does not happen often. Because nowadays, the persons who provide services via Uber or AirBnB are essentially vetted by their government ID, their digital footprint and their ongoing track record as usage and ratings and reviews creat the foundation.

  94. Trust is earned through reputation, which is the sum of past actions. Being able to tell that a stranger actually walked the dog builds trust, because after a period of faithful performance of the job, one comes to trust the dog walker because they performed consistently. At that point people would most likely stop bothering to monitor.

  95. With nearly 8 billion people on Earth, you simply cannot have old fashioned trust among perhaps more than 20 people. Trust but verify is wise, since anything more leads to problems of caveat emptor, cons and other forms of victimization. Sharing is better than hoarding or over production; but to share across modern communities, trust must include "but verified" through monitoring and positive ID.

  96. For a brief period of time I had to use Instacart. I was surprised to find that I would be able to track the delivery person's progress in real time on the app. I wondered why I would need to do this. I placed my order and I expected the groceries to be delivered at the time I requested. I don't need to monitor the person's travels. I wonder what kind of stress and pressure that puts on the drivers, knowing that every move in the car can be watch and tracked. I think it's all part of getting people used to being tracked in their everyday lives. I think it's creepy and unnecessary. I don't think we need to monitor anyone like this, whether they be Instacart shoppers or just regular people shopping in a store unless they are under suspicion of breaking a law. And people on the other end need to slow down and understand that the service will be provided-you don't need to sit on the edge of your seat watching it being done.

  97. I didn't quite understand the author's argument regarding AirbnB. How is someone more anonymous when using traditional accommodations such as a hotel? One always has to present identification (typically a passport when overseas) at check in as well as use a credit or debit card (and often enough accommodations are found and booked online, which leaves its own digital footprint). Morever, the assumption that hotels are more secure or indeed more private is rather problematic. One need only recall the many data breaches affecting hotels such as Mariott (e.g. the personal details of 500 million hotel guests were stolen in 2014), Radisson (its "Rewards" database was breached), and Hilton (fined $700,000 for mishandling data breaches in 2014 and 2015), among many others, to know that cybersecurity at some of nation's (and world's) top hotels is less than perfect. I can't seem to recall a single breach of a comparable scale with Airbnb databases. Critiquing the "sharing" economy is entirely valid and worthwhile, but not at the expense of logic or empirical evidence.

  98. Many of the articles from The Privacy Project have been informative, interesting, well-researched, and some entertaining. I just wish the NYTimes itself was a little more privacy oriented. If, for example, you use the app, it’s constantly sharing data about your behavior with Google and Facebook. Why? Are subscription fees insufficient?

  99. All of these sharing economy gigs exist for one reason and one reason only... to put money in the creators of the gigs. Never trust them, and if your privacy is a real concern for you (it really should be) don't participate. It's not like the sharing economy is the only economy in the world today.. it simply works best with those who cannot actually interact live with real human beings and must hide behind some facade of an app.

  100. @Chuck Or those who don't know how to network or build their own client base.

  101. AirBNB is an alternative to "traditional" hotels. I challenge Mr. Scott to check into a Marriott or Hilton property and pay with cash or Bitcoin or any other mechanism that provides anonymity. I'll wait.

  102. Running a hotel involves compliance with laws designed to protect consumers. Their is an enforceable standard of conduct and recourse for both parties. If you had a more complete understanding of Airbnb then the comparison to a hotel falls apart. Airbnb provides little to recourse for the guest, even in well documented cases exposing fraud schemes.

  103. There is almost no where to find "privacy" outside your own home, now, and often not in your home, either. This is not going to get better. You are on camera a large portion of the time you are outside your home. Yesterdays article on photo recognition, in this same paper, made it crystal clear that not only government, but anyone who is interested in your life can get your address and phone numbers cheaply. That, of course, includes creeps who want your address, your kids, you name it. I work with kids, and to do so, I willingly put my face and fingerprints into several government data bases. But! I despise the idea that those unwilling to do so and myself can now be tracked by the most unsavory of people.

  104. My favorite - if you don't want to share your entire calendar with everyone at your workshop (which could be thousands of people), you're considered not collaborative, hard to work with, or downright secretive.

  105. I don’t even create an electronic calendar at my office. I don’t put my personal agenda online. I wing it. I never miss a beat. Keeps me sharper.

  106. If you want to conduct business based on blind trust or a hunch that someone can be trusted, go ahead and good luck. Me? I check the rating of the product and seller before buying anything on Amazon or eBay. I check the ratings of my Uber driver. I check the ratings of my AirBNB host. I have found these to be super accurate and valid. Every business that is rated, will do everything to make things right and avoid a bad review - this is simply awesome for me as a consumer. The only concern I have on privacy is the laws that mandate me to disclose to the state and federal government my income, how many children I have, my address, date of birth, every year. My local government also lists my name, address, how much I paid for my house (and the annual taxes), all the cars I own (and the annual property taxes). My license plates are scanned by every state and local police car and traffic cameras wherever I go. I lose ALL that privacy to the government and it is forced, involuntary. And I get no value in return. If you care about lack of privacy start there - the forced (by government) kind.

  107. I would like us to stop using the term "sharing" for this. It's not sharing if you charge money. A better way of thinking of this is that all of these are tech companies. They have built software that allows them - for a fee - to broker transactions. It should really be viewed as a form of advertising for small hotels. Airbnb makes so much money on these transactions that they have encouraged these "hosts" to circumvent their cities' rules. People have come to assume they are entitled to run small hotels in any part of an city - which is generally not true. Hosts and drivers are assuming all of the capital costs to operate de facto lodging or taxi services. The ride companies even set the rates that the owners of the capital are allowed to charge (which is why these drivers should be treated as employees and should be paid a wage and mileage).

  108. I see your point but some of us want/need to leverage our assets and have come to love having people come stay here. It’s a chance to see people in a more intimate way when you really see how others live. It makes you vulnerable to open up but it’s worth the risk. It helps survive in this ever more expensive city. When you have people come back at the end of an adventurous day in a city you love you have a chance to appreciate that while this city is intense and tough to craft a life in, it’s got wonders worth exploring and the relationships I’ve build has been truly precious. Souls I never knew existed cross my path and I get to see that the world is not as scary a place as so many are manipulated into believing.

  109. I will gladly pay more for a taxi driver: insured, licensed and often self employed so lacking a big brother to whom I Have to give my life data to. It is still possible to survive without uber and without ubereats, or sharing a workspace or anything. Please, patronize the remaining non-sharing service providers , they are a lifeline to a better life. .

  110. The analysis here is pretty much upside down. The upscale writer purports to address infringements upon our privacy. But the examples given mostly involve upscale surveillance of working class service providers. The threat to privacy discussed here falls mostly upon child care workers, dog sitters and those renting out a room or two. In short, the upscale are increasingly spying on service workers owing to class-based distrust. And partisan distrust as well—the upscale tend to be Dems whereas service workers are more likely Republican. The bottom line result is heightening the hostility created by income disparity. Upscale Democrats profoundly distrust service workers they hire and exercise offensive surveillance that is highly intrusive. The matter of privacy is very much an exercise of power that derived from greater wealth.

  111. An interesting take. I’m not sure I completely agree, but I’d have to give it some more thought. The one point I think is not correct is to turn this idea into a Dem vs GOP issue. I know some dog walkers in NYC and they are definitely Democrats.

  112. Michjas response is not wrong, however I see it as another layer to this whole complex issue. The fundamental principle of trust is critical to relationships and fosters more ease when it’s there. Tech has shortened the time it takes to establish trust, yet it may also be manipulated, (yet another layer to this issue.) Can we agree that it is a value? Social, and institutional trust is critical for an optimal function of interactions, BUT it cannot be forced, hence the sticking point. How to navigate this given these nuances is key to moving forward with a sense of peace, safety, care, respect, wherein all these other values can be upheld as well. Trust without respect is a sham. Respect without trust is very challenging. It seems to me that ‘restraint’ in non-abuse of power and trust is what’s needed. That, I believe is only possible with awareness and practice. Not abusing the various privileges many of us experience in various ways is how we build this ‘trust’ that first starts with self and then expands into our social circles. Trust is NOT irrelevant if you choose to appreciate it as a fundamental value.

  113. The proliferation of this technology depends on distrust and suspicion, that seems obvious. But the more our lives are invaded by technological surveillance capable of circumventing behavioral counter-measures, and which is to say that it defies the principle of consent, the stronger and more oppressive this unaccountable Foucaultian power becomes. We, on the other hand, are more accountable than ever. And to forces that we cannot identify, influence or resist. This is why I believe that Surveillance Capitalism is a greater threat to our well-being than terrorism. This technology is the agent of an anti-human political economy which is evolving into a demonic monster that may soon rival any other horror known to history. For example, in Oakland a paramilitary police organization just used recycled war equipment and robots to remove a homeless family from a vacant property in a housing market where there are four vacant properties for every homeless person. Is our drive for "safety" really making us safer? I don't think so.

  114. The biggest threat to privacy now is technology. We need to enforce anti-trust laws that will break up monopolies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Twitter. We need to establish new laws that will regulate Bnb, Ueber, and other "sharing" companies. We need to strengthen tort laws that will discourage newspapers and other media from "outing" us. The great lawyer and jurist, Louis D. Brandeis, was the first to write on the right to privacy. We need to add that right as an amendment to the Constitution.

  115. We seemingly trust our politicians far more than we should.

  116. you should not that companies that want everyone to trust usually do not even provide their email address or phone number without a tremendous amount of digging. We used to used our intelligence to help determine who was trustworthy but that seems to have disappeared with privacy of any kind. Now people use the one public spaces for "private " phone conversations where everyone can listen in. Ironic. Law enforcement certainly eavesdrops on some calls, who knows about hidden cameras and the biggest problem with losing privacy is that it never can be gotten back. We have lost our identities to banks, housing, law enforcement, government, medical offices, credit score keepers--what's really left? Facial recognition will soon be a part of daily life, especially at travel points, and of course, one's "national identity" is already a loss of privacy. If you are an "other" you will be scrutinized and assaulted from all venues. People have been seduced by the technology that will imprison them.

  117. Nowadays hotels are far from a private affair in most cases. AirBnB and standard hotels are little different. 1. Hotels ask for ID at check-in. Often a credit card is taken too. AirBnB has the user upload an ID to gain access to its site. 2. Most hotels are booked online. Ditto AirBnB. 3. Most hotels have cameras in all public spaces including elevators and upstairs halls. In this regard it is more secure and less anonymous in terms of movement about the facility than a typical AirBnB however any AirBnB might also have cameras recording. 4. Hotels provide electronic cards for the room keys and sometimes even property entrance. Hence all comings and going are recorded to the assigned room via the card issued. AirBnb probably has far less of this, but not necessarily because the property owner may have electronic locks on premises that capture data too. So, this is all a distinction in a discussion by author and comments without a true difference. One big difference is: AirBnB hosts and guests can rate and comment about each other, as if it were a two-way Yelp dynamic. That is not the case in terms of hotels where guests have more discrete rights in the hotel’s database.

  118. How about Venmo that tells everyone about each transaction unless you opt out? Many people are not aware of this.

  119. @Robert I cancelled my account when I saw that. I knew I could opt out, but I didn't want to support a social networking site that trivializes finances. I'm glad a lot of people still take checks.

  120. I think people have always been evidence-based/observation-based and situation-based trusters. We have never taken a leap unless were given a reason to. The evidence or reasons for trusting someone in the past may have been bad but they counted as something. In hunter-gatherer days we probably would have relied on reputation, gossip and their behavior around us and stuff like that, to know if we can trust someone. But as you can see these methods are not very reliable. Our default is that we do not trust others, excluding family perhaps, and as societies grew we developed more reliable and rigorous ways that allows us to trust others. Our limits were only our tools. Today our technology allows us to gather those reasons and evidence in a way that is really powerful. If we didn't have evidence to base our trust on, the other thing we had was a guarantee. Like if someone else's interests were aligned with yours we could trust them. If you knew if they betrayed you it would be bad for them you would trust them. Our societies have laws and other institutions to facilitate this role. I don't agree with the idea that requesting more ways to monitor people makes us trust people less, it makes us trust them more. We have always done it, now we are doing it at unprecedented levels. This is not to say that this game is not dangerous or doesn't have any shortcomings, I am just saying this isn't really new (the nature of how trust works or it's meaning hasn't really changed).

  121. We live in a time when the very concept of privacy has been relegated to the trash bin. To trust or not to trust. To participate or not participate. Choosing to participate on any social platform or website is choosing to take a certain risk. Given advances (sic) in technology we have license plate readers, facial recognition software and numerous other identifying applications used by intelligence agencies, law enforcement, home owners associations and all sorts of businesses and individuals. If you make online transactions, use credit cards, have student loans or a mortgage you have been profiled. The information used to make decisions about your personal responsibility began at the local library and ends somewhere in the cosmos. I doubt if the so called transparency will benefit anyone - but its too late to stuff the technology back in Pandora's box.

  122. If I had a spare room in my house and was in a desirable Seattle neighborhood I’d consider listing on Airbnb for two reason: to make extra money and to meet people (and share things I know about this city after living here for forty years.) However, I’m not sure I’d be trusting enough to open my house to strangers. On the other hand, although I have not used Airbnb as a guest yet, I would be willing to do so because I know I’d be an exceptional guest (ethical, good manners, clean, quiet, etc.) My only concern would be renting a place that was misrepresented but I would hope that user reviews would minimize that risk. So, while I may be wrong, I think the person taking the much bigger risk in these “sharing” services — Airbnb, Uber, etc. — is the person providing the service, not the person using it.

  123. Any type of surveillance will not stop anyone from going off the rails. However, vetting and an old fashioned gut check might prevent hiring someone who will.

  124. I have used AirBnb regularly for ten years and it has been a fantastic experience! It has allowed me so much freedom and a lot of contact with locals that I could never get from a sterile hotel setting. Sure you might get a few fake reviews, but they are evened out by multiple reviews. You can't fake them all. AirBnb might be bad for different neighbourhoods but for the consumer it is a Godsend!

  125. @Barry Lane AirBnB is so determinate to cities and communities that it is outlawed in NYC and many european cities. Your 'consumer godsend' should not come at the cost of tenant laws (which AirBnB actively pours money into local government to destroy), safety and rising rental rates. Use a hotel or bed and Breakfast and stop thinking your actions have no effect on others.

  126. Well, the first thing one need to do is to understand that this is NOT the ''sharing'' economy, but the ''illegal'' economy or the ''black market '' economy or the ''lawless'' economy. Once one understands and accepts that premise, then one also accepts that their privacy will most likely be non existent and that people and companies that are breaking the law, will have no equivocation of using, manipulating and selling their data. It is that simple.

  127. @FunkyIrishman You are absolutely correct, it is that simple, you will be used by corporate America for whatever money they can squeeze out of you.

  128. The "hogging economy" would be more to the point - first cause or worsen a scarcity, then charge people for a "solution." The application in San Francisco, fortunately banished, that first hogged street parking spaces and then reserved them for someone who paid is a prime example. Or take information from someone often without their knowledge and almost always without their informed consent, as detailed in a recent Times series, and then sell it to others, calling this "sharing" rather than"selling," or better yet, "stealing." It seems some have missed a key lesson of kindergarten, where one learned to share, and nobody got to collect money for it.

  129. Airbnb's sham pontificating about "trust" (ditto HomeAway) is totally hypocritical. For decades, when I traveled, I rented my luxury house in San Francisco, primarily through HomeAway, to visiting strangers from all over the world. I never had a serious problem, not because I trusted strangers but because I required renters to fill out an application & provide references which I religiously checked. I called guests to get acquainted & discuss the rental conditions. I let my neighbors know who was staying in my house, so they could keep an eye out, and gave the renters contact info for my neighbors in case of problems. Renters had to sign my rental agreement & I had their credit card info if I needed it, which I never did. I had hundreds of guests over 3 decades & some returned many times. All appreciated my thorough process because they were as leary about renting a stranger's house as I was renting to strangers. They felt that anyone going to that much trouble must have a house worth renting. Trust ended when Airbnb arrived & HomeAway followed its mercenary model. Now, neither Airbnb or HomeAway allow contact between the owner & the renter because they would lose their exorbitant fee. Everything is done by computer. It is almost impossible to reach a human at Airbnb or HomeAway. They have "disrupted" the market so much I have stopped renting because of San Francisco's new regulations. Airbnb and HomeAway have destroyed "trust" and are crying all the way to the bank.

  130. Just another article talking fearfully of new changes in society and new business models as dangerous. I have used many "sharing" services and perfectly comfortable with them and the small privacy tradeoffs. I tend to disregard these types of articles. They tend to just speak to unjustified fears of the future without adequately discussing the full cost/benefit analysis of the new change. History is littered with such articles and books of even the best of societal changes. This article will speak mostly to the more fearful and less adaptable of the older generation.

  131. I didn’t see fear based writing or analysis.

  132. @Fred This is the issue I have with some of those who rush to adopt the latest technology: the dismissal of those who are uncomfortable with it or question it. They think that they are right and all who don't adopt without question are old and fearful people. This is a very poor attitude to take.

  133. As it so happens, I'm a longtime Airbnb host – recognized as a "Superhost" and with multiple "verified" listings on its Airbnb Plus platform – who's experienced multiple problems with troublesome guests (not the other way around): most notably (and recently) a three-time felon who somehow "evaded" the site's ostensible controls against them using the platform. Three weeks ago I had a guest who booked a two-night stay at one of my units & left it completely trashed, including breaking into a locked storage closet and stealing over $1,000 worth of various items inside. After discovering the damage, I checked his criminal background on my own and discovered he'd been convicted of violent crimes on multiple occasions – and has a current warrant out for his arrest for evading parole! In a similar vein, nearly every major U.S. news publisher – including The Times – published the recent revelations about the 3,000+ crimes that took place during Uber rides in 2018. There was widespread "blame" for Uber ostensibly not doing enough to protect passengers against sexual predators, but a key element of the report was practically reduced to a footnote: over half of the offenses were ones *against* drivers *by* passengers. While I'm not at all trying to make light of crimes committed by hosts or drivers, the tougher questions come in with regards to ones committed by paying customers. Would it really be a "privacy violation" if, say, Uber banned passengers with priors for sexual assault?

  134. Trust is developed over time and with the building of a relationship. Years ago my babysitter would be a neighbor's daughter who I knew outside that business arrangement. The same for others in whom I entrusted my or my family's or my possessions' safety. Today our population is greater and we are much more mobile. It can thus be difficult to develop the trust we once could. Recognizing the caveats expressed by others here, I still thank goodness we at least have a measure of transparency with many sharing economy services.

  135. I used to live in a university district in a small Craftsman bungalow with a porch. At certain times of year these streets were inundated with students with name and address-specific questionnaires. They were too lazy to walk an extra half-mile to enter a different neighborhood, so it wasn't unusual to be pestered 3 times a week - usually as people are just settling down to supper. No canvassing, no soliciting signs were routinely ignored in order to disturb even the more elderly residents who often had trouble just getting to the door, but would out of old-fashioned politeness. After answering the same inane questions for the third time, and my wife recovering from cancer surgery, I requested to be removed from their list. I was told they couldn't do that. The next evening a Please Do Not Disturb sign was ignored and I not so pleasantly told the student to 'go away.' He said he didn't have to go away until I answered all his questions! Naturally that didn't sit well with me so I unleashed a tirade of soldierly verbal vomit on him that he'd likely never heard before. "You can't talk to me like that." He said. "Well, son, you're standing on my porch after I told you to go away, so I can do a lot more than curse, and will if you're still here in three seconds." Never had anymore show up, ever. But sad that you have to reach that point to regain privacy from kids who are taught they are God's gift to the planet and everyone's privacy is also theirs for the taking.

  136. I grew up in a rural area where everyone was not only known, but their family known across generations and where everyone was related to some degree. Trust was based on intimate knowledge of people’s character. People talked about the childhood antics of old men. It was also based on the knowledge that any betrayal of trust would follow the person for life. I don’t see how any purely commercial relationship can approach that without constant monitoring.

  137. We rent out a room on Airbnb and that has led to meeting interesting people from all over the world. Without both vetting by Airbnb and access to prior reviews, we would not be able to do this. Renting helps cover costs for our daughter's college education and means that a room that would otherwise be underused when family aren't in town gets used. It is silly to conflate the type of financial/ physical trust needed to allow a stranger into our home with the personal/emotional trust we place in family and close friends. The author needs at a minimum to better define his terms and clarify his thinking.

  138. Young children and pets are totally vulnerable and can be harmed or killed by the wrong caretakers. I once had a babysitter (a friend!) take my young autistic son far from my neighborhood for the day, without my consent, and returned him 3 hours after I returned from work. I was panicking the whole time. She also disregarded another parent’s orders to keep her infant out of the sun - he was about to undergo plastic surgery for a severe cleft palate and was under strict doctor’s orders to protect his skin - with a sunburn. Obviously we both fired her. I see nothing wrong with surveillance. I do thing you should be open with whomever you hire that you are using these technologies. And trusting a stranger with all or part of your home is also a leap. I love Air BNB and am proud of my good reviews from past hosts.

  139. Lack of trust is a problem in the US but it does not seem to be as serious as in China. It has been reported that the Chinese government determines a social responsibility score for all of its citizens and this score is available to everyone. The reason given why this is apparently acceptable by the people in China is a lack of trust among its citizens. It is hard to imagine this scoring system migrating to the US but given how easily people appear to adopt digital technology with no regard for their own privacy you never know what might be on the way. During this century we are discovering that large of American don't care about democracy and that large numbers don't care about privacy.

  140. all these notions of 'trade-off', good with the bad, etc. are weak rationale for notions of our great connected future. in fact, what we are creating is a more fractured and disconnected reality (driven entirely by greed). this peice is a good critique, but not much solution. people argue we have to accept all the bad with the good (as with any revolutionary shift in technology), but then what good? more reliability? less unpredictability? more profitible assurances? no grey area? these are utopian urges as old as organized culture, fueled by our impulses for predictability, reliability, clear roadmaps, lack of variation, and of course, surplus (wealth) for the fallow times. nyt (who i do love) admittidly participates in all this, and i am one of its shills (as is anyone reading this comment). my solution, then, is more good old-fashioned not knowing. what if we let chance be more active in our lives? allow risk to play its part as it always has? if i could profit from the shares the nyt sells ala my "digital exhaust" via wall street bit-brokers on some not so open market i wouldn't wince when reading their privacy policy. as it stands however, i have no agency, only encouraged to debate and accept the good with the bad - let others profit off my behavior. neo-liberal greed is the engine, our privacy, moreover, personal freedom (think descarte) the price tag. read "the age of surveillance capitalism" by shoshana zuboff now and help save what little of yourself you can!

  141. Over the past 8 years our airbnb guests from all over the world have been wonderful.

  142. The as yet to be exploited aspects of all this personal and public surveillance...law suits! Hello lawyers! Once they figure a profitable way to find blame using surveillance -making proving their made-up cause easier - any one of us is subject to being brought into lawsuits, that should not include us. Imagine if you're driving and you make a somewhat risky left hand turn, and as such cause a subtle effect on the traffic flow...and an accident occurs. Which in no way involves you, or in a sensible world should not involve you. BUT - whats to stop an enterprising lawyer from dragging you into the case as the root cause of the accident that ensued from your quasi risky left hand turn!?!? Or any other law suits where the more the merrier involved means more money to ferret out for the lawyers to snatch for themselves. Sound crazy? Just watch.

  143. "our faith in the decency of others" I share the planet with ~8 billion people, 99.99999% of them complete strangers to me, in an intricately interconnected global economy and cultural/political mosaic, a planetary ecosphere, knit together with global communication, global travel, global trade... And you want me to extend trust based on... what, only long personal acquaintance? Skin color, accent, political affiliation? Faith in the decency of others? I wish to see this wonderful system in action. What planet do you live on?

  144. I've traveled the world for business and pleasure. I've never felt more (nor less) secure in a major hotel than I do in an Airbnb. As for the invasion of privacy by Airbnb, do you not think that Hilton has access to private data if needed through your credit card, drivers license, or whatever they require for identification when you check in? And what's to prevent the Marriott maid from installing cameras in your room, or giving a copy of their access card to the next Jack-the-Ripper. Being on the 30th floor provides no more security than staying at a lakeside cottage. And no more privacy. I'm a nobody among the billions of people on this planet, so other than prevent identity theft, I tend not to worry about privacy of who I am.

  145. AirBnb does require trust. Allowing a complete stranger to have the run of your home is an act of such extreme trust that I can't understand why anyone would do it.

  146. But, why trust the evidence on camera or digital marker? This is what one political party teaches us as it refuses to believe the evidence that its god has sinned. Are we not in a post-truth world?

  147. Meh. After being diagnosed with cancer I stopped fretting so much about so much of this stuff. We're all going to die and none of this goes with us. Mother nature also will eventually hose us off since we've made such a mess of things and it's too late to undo the damage. Enjoy each day. Consume less. Interact more. Get off your computer and into nature. Everything about you will eventually be gone and no one will care. Relax and try to enjoy your blink of an eye.

  148. True Airbnb wanted a lot of information to verify me. However I got the keys to someone's house and never saw a human. In Europe they ask for a passport to stay in a hotel.

  149. At least with a nanny or dog walker or Airbnb, the privacy is lost through service or temporary housing. You get what you pay for. A fraud like Mark Zuckerberg has convinced BILLIONS of people to give up their privacy so they can be "closer" to one another at no cost. And billions remain connected through Facebook despite its shameful enabling of misinformation and even genocides.

  150. "It’s also a model of consumerism that makes our traditional idea of trust irrelevant." Our faith and trust in the decency of others gets many murdered as Uber riders have found out. Common sense should be used when using services where trust is irrelevant.

  151. "Sharing" is a misnomer. It's legal theft of personal information that's exploited and monetized for a persons lifetime.

  152. Well, the first thing one need to do is to understand that this is NOT the ''sharing'' economy, but the ''illegal'' economy or the ''black market '' economy or the ''lawless'' economy. Once one understands and accepts that premise, then one also accepts that their privacy will most likely be non existent and that people and companies that are breaking the law, will have no equivocation of using, manipulating and selling their data. It is that simple <

  153. Why is it when a NYTimes article highlights AirBNB for exposing people's privacy for services a subscriber like me suspects that the competing hotel chains paid for this ad? Perhaps because just doing our taxes exposes us to far wider world of hacking and we don't even need an app for that service? All we have to do is click "Yes" on the privacy rules of any on line service whether those rules are made available to us before we must choose to continue or not it's just "click" and our private info gets sold to the highest bidder. You know why? We don't have any consumer protections. You know why? Because conservatives don't respect liberal services that protect our privacy until they go to the jails they profit from.

  154. Maybe the last few decades proved we need chaparrones, human or electronic. The articles seems to indicate the whole idea of trusting just anyone was a recent phenomena in eight thousand years of human civilization. We cannot exactly say that idea really worked out. Maybe going back to old school is better.

  155. It seems to me that there was some type of psychic shift in the mindset of Americans after 911. after 911 we need to know where loved ones are all the time...we must be able to contact them at any time. snowstorms and weather seems to be reported in a more fearful way. and cell phones changed with so much extra tracking and surveillance. this fear based way of living...the wussification of america...is not what our forefathers and foremothers were about. imagine relatives heading west...to never be seen again and communication by letter from that point forward. how do we return to courage and trust and independence...and perhaps kindness and love... those are my questions. in the meantime I will try my best not to participate in the sharing economy...

  156. Okay, so stay at a real hotel and hail a yellow taxi.

  157. Thank you, well said !

  158. It's not the job of a newspaper to tell people who to vote for. The Times has an exaggerated perception of their importance and their influence. They will end up looking like fools.

  159. I won’t use anything willingly that tracks me or someone doing a service for me. I don’t use maps to navigate turn by turn if I can at all help it. I put my phone in airplane mode a lot and nearly always have location serviced off. I don’t share every gd thing I do on sm. I will not make my house smart, or my refrigerator communicative to the www. No Alexa, I won’t talk to you. I use Amazon Prime as shopping of last resort. If you want the new world go ahead. It’s not going to last long at the present rate.

  160. Pretty creepy. Essentially, if you feel you need to surveil your dog walker, babysitter or AirBnB “guests” you seriously don’t trust them and maybe should walk your own dog, watch your own kid and don’t rent out your house to strangers.

  161. Ronald Reagan said it best, “trust — and verify”. One does not preclude the other.