WSJ: Airbnb Executive Resigned Last Year Over Chinese Request for More Data Sharing

When it filed to go public this week, Airbnb Inc. said that its ability to continue doing business in China is a risk factor for its brand and profitability.

Operating in the country has sparked debate among the home-sharing startup’s senior leadership for some time, leading a top executive to depart abruptly last year, according to people familiar with the company.

Airbnb hired Sean Joyce, a former deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in May of 2019 as its first “chief trust officer,” a role that entailed protecting users’ safety on the platform.

He resigned six months later over concerns about how the massive rental platform shares data on millions of its users with Chinese authorities, the people said.

Airbnb has told users since 2016 that it shares information with Chinese authorities, according to a review of its communications. Even so, Mr. Joyce believed most people using the platform weren’t aware of the extent of the data shared, which included phone numbers, email addresses and messages between users and the company, two of these people said.

We’re not here to promote American values,” Mr. [Nathan] Blecharczyk [an Airbnb co-founder] told Mr. Joyce, according to people familiar with the conversation. Mr. Joyce resigned weeks later.

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This does not bode well.

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Chinese authorities = Chinese Communist Party.

Very distressing that Airbnb is apparently in bed with the CCP, with its human rights abuses.

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Airbnb aren’t the only folks who get in bed with authoritarian regimes to do business.

This is all a bit of non story, and with curious timing relating to discussing Joyce’s resignation. One wonders if his reason for resigning could be more to do with a square peg (ex FBI) finding himself in a round hole (fluffy profit driven tech company), than any major concerns over fairly standard hospitality industry data sharing. Maybe it was sharing the “messages” that bothered him…

Airbnb has been pretty transparent in relation to the data they share with the Chinese authorities, as in its been on the Airbnb site since 2016 (I believe). They only share the data that pertains to bookings made in China, and this is done via a separate company, Airbnb Internet (Beijing) Co., Ltd.

If you don’t reside in China and you confirm a booking for an accommodation in China, your information will be transferred to, stored, used, and processed by Airbnb China, including:

  • Your name, phone number, and email address
  • Booking and check-in information including dates and times
  • Messages between you and the host
  • The names, nationality(ies), gender, date of birth, passport/national ID details and passport expiry date(s) of all guest(s) staying in the listing, including yourself

Chinese government agencies require Airbnb China to disclose host and listing information relating to China listings, as well as guest booking and check-in information relating to reservations in China. Similar to other hospitality companies that do business in China, Airbnb China will disclose your information to Chinese government agencies without further notice to you.

So, Joe in Arkansas, Jose in Madrid, Jean in Paris etc, can all sleep easy in their beds, no data relating to either them, or their guests from Paris, Madrid or Arkansas is being shared with the Chinese government.

Stuff like this isn’t new; other than having access to the on-platform messages, the information we had to give hosts/hotels in Cuba twenty years ago isn’t that different to the above. They in turn passed it on to the authorities.

Even now, other than the telephone number, email address and messages, we have to share the exact same data (in real time) with the Spanish government, which we do, for every guest. Many countries require guest data from the hospitality sector, some even require a full itinerary from the traveller before granting a visa.

I can be one of Airbnb’s biggest critics, but in this instance I can’t see what the issue is, unless you’ve something to hide, from China. Reds under your Airbnb bed and all that :grinning:



Funny that some people share everything on Facebook - down to what colour their knickers are - but object to data sharing. :rofl:


Not sure what your point is, except to provide a strawman argument – the article is about guests who DO visit China, and how the CCP gets a pretty big data dump from their collaborationists at Airbnb China. Brave New World.

Data “sharing” this is not. The CCP is mandating and mining this data to track potential opponents of the regime. There is a big liberty movement underway to create a New Federal State of China, with many brave whistleblowers coming forward on what the CCP does to prevent rule of law and liberty, and to torture its opponents and minority groups.
Then we have Airbnb chasing a market and cooperating fully with the repressive regime.

Why is this the government’s business?
Do you share all your messages with your guest with the Spanish government? That’s part of what Airbnb China does.
Does the Spanish government get the guest’s email address? As Airbnb China apparently harvests and provides.

I think the point is that Airbnb can’t do business in China without providing that info and there are other countries that require Airbnb to share the same info, but the headline wouldn’t be as sensational.

Their only alternative is to not do business in China. That’s not to say foreign businesses can’t impact Chinese policy. They certainly can, but they need to have some leverage, and I don’t think Airbnb has it.

Interesting that he is former FBI. I wonder if he quit the FBI for the same reason (i.e. because they access American citizens’ private information without authorization, etc.).


And our option as a guest, if we do not want the chinese govt to get all that information then do not travel there.



And you don’t think the US govt. mines data to track “opponents of the regime” ?


Anyone planning to visit China should assume that anything that is disclosed to any kind of travel or accommodation provider to, from, or in China will be shared with the Chinese government. Only the naive would assume otherwise. I would assume the same if I was going to Russia, Turkey, Cuba, and most of Asia, the Middle East and north Africa.


Only in the mind of right wing media. I mean, how many of them against 2.8 million in the military, in a country of 1.4 billion? Many Hongkong activists are or were leaving.


This is such a non story @PuppyLover.

All listing companies/accommodation providers have to provide this sort of information to the Chinese government.

When I worked for an international animal welfare charity a few years back and went there to help promote a campaign around bear welfare, the hotels had to provide all our contact details to the Chinese government. Not sure whether they provided email correspondence as I didn’t book the rooms/


My point is that you conveniently decided NOT to include the fact that the data sharing is only applicable to guests “who DO visit China” in your initial post, and then provided a link to a paywalled article.

To be frank, your use of selective quotes, from an article many folks can’t access, is both misleading and disingenuous.

But then again, to do otherwise wouldn’t suit your agenda, would it?

Total non story, and an old one at that.

You don’t want your data shared with the Chinese government, then don’t travel to China. Simples.

You don’t want your data shared with the Spanish government, don’t travel to Spain.



Sean Joyce got information about the new viral outbreak in China in Nov 2019 and got the hell out of Dodge before the proverbial SHTF. He enjoyed the holidays and then right back to safety at Price Waterhouse Coopers. Why this story is coming out now is unknown but may become known later.

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I am completely with you on this JohnF. Airbnb hands over all my info to Australian government at their request; and the UK government; including details of guests, bank account, incomes, etc etc. So it hands it to China? I am sure it does this for every other government in the world. Duh!!! And take the log out of your own eye US before etc etc

You are incorrect. Airbnb does not hand over details of guests, bank account, incomes to the UK government @Sarah1/Anna

Why would you think that is is case?

They (AIR) sent me an email earlier this year saying the UK government had asked them to and they were going to, (first) and second, they do it in Australia.

It has been reported in the press in both countries also if you want to do some research.

How would Airbnb know details of a user’s income?

Pretty simple Jaquo. Unless I am the only person in the world this happens to, all cashflow I earn on my Airbnbs is run through Airbnb. In the eyes of each government this income is taxable (either as a VAT or GST or income tax or special tax charge)
I thought it was obvious, but maybe it bears stating clearly, I am not speaking of the tuppence in cash I earn selling my excess parsley to the local grocer. Or the $10 million dividends I make each year on my share portfolio. Airbnb doesnt know about that. Only the income derived through Airbnb.

All data that Airbnb holds, everything, for each country, should be considered open information within that country’s government.

This is the 21st century. People born this century are turning 21 next year. Everything is digital. The government knows absolutely everything about you.

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