Airbnb Agrees to Stop Processing Dutch Citizen ID Numbers

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By Stephen Gardner

Short-term lodging rental company Airbnb Inc. agreed to stop processing Dutch citizens’ national identity numbers under an agreement with the Netherlands’s privacy office announced Dec. 15.

Companies that carry out identity authentication in the Netherlands need to take into account that the nation’s privacy law gives identity numbers special protected status. When the European Union’s new privacy regime takes effect in May 2018, companies that violate the law would be subject to high fines.

Airbnb’s requirement that users upload a digital copy of their passport or similar identity document as a condition of renting accommodation violated the law, the Dutch Data Protection Authority said in a statement. The company agreed to immediately adopt a system that automatically deletes Dutch ID numbers from any uploaded copies of passports, the regulator said in the statement.

The Dutch national number is a “unique ID and a lot of companies love to use it,” even though the Dutch privacy office has repeatedly warned companies not to do so, Wanne Pemmelaar, a senior privacy associate with Allen & Overy LLP in Amsterdam, told Bloomberg Law Dec. 15. Under the forthcoming EU General Data Protection GDPR, the privacy office could issue fines to make an example of a company over the processing of identity numbers, Pemmelaar said.

Here, the privacy regulator’s case against Airbnb was straightforward because Dutch law is clear on the limits on processing national identity numbers, he said.

The Dutch DPA worked with Ireland’s Office of the Data Protection Commissioner to enforce the Dutch law against Airbnb, which has its European headquarters in Dublin. The company is therefore under Irish jurisdiction, Dutch DPA spokeswoman Inge Sanders told Bloomberg Law Dec. 15.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Gardner in Brussels at correspondents@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald G. Aplin at daplin@bloomberglaw.com

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