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6 Months After New York Banned Airbnb, New Jersey Is Doing Great

6 Months After New York Banned Airbnb, New Jersey Is Doing Great

More than 95 percent of the group’s members say they have no intention of becoming long-term landlords, says Lindsay. Instead, he argues, they are now faced with rising housing costs and no immediate way to offset them. The law “has yielded some unintentional effects that are harming smaller homeowners,” Lindsay says.

Amid the uncertainties, there may be some winners from the law: hotels in the city and the state of New Jersey. Hotel occupancy rates in New York have been slightly up year-over year, by 4 percent in January and 3.4 percent through February 24, according to CoStar, which tracks commercial real estate. The average daily room rate in January was up from $198 a night to $209, and from $200 to about $207 through February 24.

Across the Hudson River, demand for short-term rentals has risen sharply in Jersey City, Hoboken, and Weehawken since the law passed, all cities that offer quick access into downtown Manhattan. Jersey City has seen demand rise 77 percent year-over-year as of mid-February, according to AirDNA, while in Weehawken and Hoboken demand has increased 45 and 32 percent, respectively.

The high rents in New York so far seem unaffected. Despite hopes from lawmakers that the ban might bring them down, short-term rentals are just one piece of a complex unaffordable housing problem. More than half of New York households are rent-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, a 2023 report from nonprofit Community Service Society found.

The median rent of properties in the city on Zillow was up $165 in March from the same month last year, coming to $3,465. But a January 2024 report from real estate company Douglass Elliman found that rent prices fell in Manhattan and Brooklyn, areas popular with tourists, after rents stabilized and the number of vacant apartments increased in December. If restricting short-term rentals helps residents, it may take longer than six months to manifest. A recent study looked at Irvine, California, which bans short-term rentals in all residential zones, and found that after two years of the ban, rents dropped by about 3 percent.

Enforcement of the law has been patchy. With Airbnb off limits, people turned to Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or other home-sharing sites like Houfy to list their apartments after they were booted from sites like Airbnb or Vrbo. The city has not yet issued any fines to people for renting out their apartments illegally, as it is still working on compliance, according to Christian Klossner, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, which oversees the licensing process. But he says the city is responding to complaints related to illegal renting. As of February 26, the city had received 5,783 applications to run short-term rentals. It has approved 1,594, denied 990, and sent back more than 3,000 for more information or corrections.

Airbnb opposed the law, and sued the city before it took effect, but the case was dismissed last August. Now that the law is in effect, the company is maintaining its opposition. “In the six months since New York City’s short-term rental rules went into effect, we’ve seen travelers facing record hotel prices and former hosts struggling with loss of income—but we have seen no improvement in housing costs,” Nathan Rotman, Airbnb’s Northeast policy lead, tells WIRED. “We hope city leaders listen to hosts who are advocating for changes to the existing rules.”

Lindsay, of the homeowners association, says people like him are hurting while their counterparts in New Jersey benefit. Renting out an apartment on Airbnb “was a lifeline for me, especially during the pandemic,” he says. The association is working on ways the New York City Council might amend the law to allow these smaller hosts to operate short-term rentals. Right now, he says, it fails by grouping small homeowners in with big-time investors. “It treats all property owners as if they’re these evil, maniacal villains.”

Britain Admits Defeat in Controversial Online Safety Bill

Britain Admits Defeat in Controversial Online Safety Bill

Tech companies and privacy activists are claiming victory after an eleventh-hour concession by the British government in a long-running battle over end-to-end encryption.

The so-called “spy clause” in the UK’s Online Safety Bill, which experts argued would have made end-to-end encryption all but impossible in the country, will no longer be enforced after the government admitted the technology to securely scan encrypted messages for signs of child sexual abuse material, or CSAM, without compromising users’ privacy, doesn’t yet exist. Secure messaging services, including WhatsApp and Signal, had threatened to pull out of the UK if the bill was passed.

“It’s absolutely a victory,” says Meredith Whittaker, president of the Signal Foundation, which operates the Signal messaging service. Whittaker has been a staunch opponent of the bill, and has been meeting with activists and lobbying for the legislation to be changed. “It commits to not using broken tech or broken techniques to undermine end-to-end encryption.”

The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport did not respond to a request for comment.

The UK government hadn’t specified the technology that platforms should use to identify CSAM being sent on encrypted services, but the most commonly-cited solution was something called client-side scanning. On services that use end-to-end encryption, only the sender and recipient of a message can see its content; even the service provider can’t access the unencrypted data.

Client-side scanning would mean examining the content of the message before it was sent—that is, on the user’s device—and comparing it to a database of CSAM held on a server somewhere else. That, according to Alan Woodward, a visiting professor in cybersecurity at the University of Surrey, amounts to “government-sanctioned spyware scanning your images and possibly your [texts].”

In December, Apple shelved its plans to build client-side scanning technology for iCloud, later saying that it couldn’t make the system work without infringing on its users’ privacy.

Opponents of the bill say that putting backdoors into people’s devices to search for CSAM images would almost certainly pave the way for wider surveillance by governments. “You make mass surveillance become almost an inevitability by putting [these tools] in their hands,” Woodward says. “There will always be some ‘exceptional circumstances’ that [security forces] think of that warrants them searching for something else.”

Although the UK government has said that it now won’t force unproven technology on tech companies, and that it essentially won’t use the powers under the bill, the controversial clauses remain within the legislation, which is still likely to pass into law. “It’s not gone away, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Woodward says.

James Baker, campaign manager for the Open Rights Group, a nonprofit that has campaigned against the law’s passage, says that the continued existence of the powers within the law means encryption-breaking surveillance could still be introduced in the future. “It would be better if these powers were completely removed from the bill,” he adds.

But some are less positive about the apparent volte-face. “Nothing has changed,” says Matthew Hodgson, CEO of UK-based Element, which supplies end-to-end encrypted messaging to militaries and governments. “It’s only what’s actually written in the bill that matters. Scanning is fundamentally incompatible with end-to-end encrypted messaging apps. Scanning bypasses the encryption in order to scan, exposing your messages to attackers. So all ‘until it’s technically feasible’ means is opening the door to scanning in future rather than scanning today. It’s not a change, it’s kicking the can down the road.”

Whittaker acknowledges that “it’s not enough” that the law simply won’t be aggressively enforced. “But it’s major. We can recognize a win without claiming that this is the final victory,” she says.

The implications of the British government backing down, even partially, will reverberate far beyond the UK, Whittaker says. Security services around the world have been pushing for measures to weaken end-to-end encryption, and there is a similar battle going on in Europe over CSAM, where the European Union commissioner in charge of home affairs, Ylva Johannson, has been pushing similar, unproven technologies.

“It’s huge in terms of arresting the type of permissive international precedent that this would set,” Whittaker says. “The UK was the first jurisdiction to be pushing this kind of mass surveillance. It stops that momentum. And that’s huge for the world.”

Automakers Say They Resolved the Right-to-Repair Fight. Critics Aren’t Ready to Make Peace

Automakers Say They Resolved the Right-to-Repair Fight. Critics Aren’t Ready to Make Peace

Many repair shops, especially those who opt in and pay to be part of those certified networks, say they have no trouble finding the information they need to fix cars, even before this week’s agreement. Michael Bradshaw, vice president of K & M Collision in Hickory, North Carolina, and vice chair of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists, one of the groups that signed the new agreement, says his shop pays to keep up with 30 automaker certification programs, including for Kia, General Motors, Bentley, and Rivian.

In a way, Bradshaw agrees with the right-to-repair advocates: This week’s agreement doesn’t give him anything he didn’t already have. “If there’s data out there, and repair information, we’ve always been able to get that,” Bradshaw says. But he disagrees that it’s a problem that repairers must pay, sometimes dearly, to get the tools, certifications, and information that allow them to fix cars.

Bradshaw thinks it’s reasonable that he must pay for automakers’ certification programs, because developing car technology—and the documentation needed to repair it—costs the carmaker plenty of money. He’s willing to shell out whatever is needed to make a safe and effective repair. “If it was a situation where there was no charge for the access, you’re going to see that the information is going to suffer,” he says, because automakers will have less incentive to devote resources to creating clear information for repairers. “The businesses that have trouble paying for the data that’s needed are the same businesses that are not investing in training or equipment.”

Other repairers worry that without an industry-wide overhaul that forces automakers to standardize and open up their data, car companies will find ways to limit access to repair information, or push customers towards their own dealership networks to boost profits. They say that if auto owners had clear and direct ownership over the data generated by their vehicles—without the involvement of automakers’ specialized tools or systems—they could use it themselves to diagnose and repair a car, or authorize the repair shop of their choice to do the work. “My fear, if no one gives some stronger guidelines, is that I know automakers are going to monetize car data in a way that’s unaffordable for us to gain access,” says Dwayne Myers, co-owner of Dynamic Automotive, an auto repair business with several locations in Maryland.

“You have to think not only about what the situation is now, but what the situation will be five or 10 years hence,” says Roberts, the right-to-repair advocate. “It’s easier to address this now, in the early days.”

Perhaps by design, the new agreement appeared just ahead of a hearing on right to repair by a US House of Representatives subcommittee on intellectual property and the internet. A bipartisan group of representatives have already introduced bills on the topic.

The hearing follows national wrangling over a Massachusetts law passed by a 2020 ballot measure that gave state car owners firmer control over the data generated by their cars. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation sued the state over the law, preventing lawmakers from enforcing it, and a judge has yet to decide the case. But last month, the Massachusetts attorney general announced she would begin to penalize automakers that withheld data for not complying with the rule. Days later, the US Department of Transportation warned automakers not to comply with the Massachusetts law, citing concerns it would open vehicles to hacking. The letter appeared to contradict the Biden administration’s prior commitments to right-to-repair issues.

Brian Weiss, a spokesperson for the Alliance, declined to comment on the Massachusetts law, citing the ongoing litigation. But how or whether the new agreement will affect other states’ right-to-repair policies is up to policymakers, he says. It commits the trade groups who signed to push for federal rules defining right to repair and against state legislation, which could create a patchwork of laws with different obligations to DIYers or independent repairers. That echoes an agreement signed earlier this year by tractor maker John Deere and a major agricultural trade group, which advocates said failed to give farmers clear access to the tools and software needed to fix their farm equipment.

Myers, the Maryland independent repairer, says that allowing customers to own their car’s data today would, first and foremost, “give them the right to choose where they get their car fixed.” But he also has his eye on the future. “Down the road, we will find out what automakers are collecting,” he says—and why. He’d rather establish car owners’ right to control that information now, before they discover too late that it’s being used in ways they don’t like.

The EU Urges the US to Join the Fight to Regulate AI

The EU Urges the US to Join the Fight to Regulate AI

The world’s most valuable and dominant internet companies are based in the US, but the nation’s unproductive lawmakers and business-friendly courts have effectively outsourced the regulation of tech giants to the EU. That has given tremendous power to Didier Reynders, the European commissioner for justice, who is in charge of crafting and enforcing laws that apply across the 27-nation bloc. After nearly four years on the job, he’s tired of hearing big talk from the US with little action.

Ahead of his latest round of biannual meetings with US officials, including attorney general Merrick Garland in Washington, DC, tomorrow, Reynders told WIRED why the US needs to finally step up, where a probe into ChatGPT is headed, and why he made contentious comments about one of the world’s most prominent privacy activists. His bicoastal tour began with a Waymo robotaxi ride through San Francisco (he gave it a rave review) and include meetings with Google and California’s privacy czar.

On the Costs of US Inaction

It’s been five years since the EU’s stringent privacy law, the GDPR, went into effect, giving Europeans new rights to protect and control their data. Reynders has heard a series of proposals for how the US could follow suit, including from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other tech executives, Facebook whistleblowers, and members of Congress and federal officials. But he says there has been no “real follow up.”

Although the US Federal Trade Commission has reached settlements with tech companies requiring diligence with user data under threat of fines, Reynders is circumspect about their power. “I’m not saying that this is nothing,” he says, but they lack the bite of laws that open the way to more painful fines or lawsuits. “Enforcement is of the essence,” Reynders says. “And that’s the discussion that we have with US authorities.”

Now Reynders fears history is repeating with AI regulation, leaving this powerful category of technology unchecked. Tech leaders such as Sam Altman, CEO of ChatGPT developer OpenAI, says they want new safeguards, but American lawmakers seem unlikely to pass new laws.

“If you have a common approach in the US and EU, we have the capacity to put in place an international standard,” Reynders says. But if the EU’s forthcoming AI Act isn’t matched with US rules for AI, it will be more difficult to ask tech giants to be in full compliance and change how the industry operates. “If you’re doing that alone, like for the GDPR, that takes some time and it slowly spreads to other continents,” he says. “With real action on the US side, together, it will be easier.” 

On ChatGPT’s Data-Gobbling and Policy-Lobbying

ChatGPT is in the crosshairs of both privacy and AI-specific regulatory efforts.

OpenAI in April updated its privacy options and disclosures after Italy’s data protection authority temporarily blocked ChatGPT, but the conclusions of a full investigation into the company’s GDPR compliance is due by October, the country’s regulator says. And an EU-wide data protection task force expects by year’s end to hand down common principles for all member nations on dealing with ChatGPT, Reynders says. All that could force OpenAI to make further adjustments to its chatbot’s data collection and retention.

More broadly, while OpenAI’s Altman has supported calls for new rules governing AI systems, he has also expressed concern about overregulation. In May, headlines thundered that he had threatened to pull services from the EU. Altman has said his comments were taken out of context and that he does want to help define policy.

Reynders says Altman has significant business incentive to make nice with the EU, which has about 100 million more people than the US. “We have asked to have all the major actors in the discussions,” Reynders says. “We want to know their concerns and to see if we will solve that in legislation.” He insists that OpenAI shouldn’t fear new AI rules. “I’ve seen the origin of OpenAI. It’s quite the same idea—to develop new technologies, but for the good,” Reynders says.

Right-to-Repair Advocates Question John Deere’s New Promises

Right-to-Repair Advocates Question John Deere’s New Promises

Deere’s new agreement states that it will ensure that farmers and independent repair shops can subscribe to or buy tools, software, and documentation from the company or its authorized repair facilities “on fair and reasonable terms.” The tractor giant also says it will ensure that any farmer, independent technician, or independent repair facility will have electronic access to Deere’s Customer Service Advisor, a digital database of operator and technical manuals that’s available for a fee.

The memorandum also promises to give farmers the option to “reset equipment that has been immobilized”—something that can happen when a security feature is inadvertently triggered. Farmers could previously only reset their equipment by going to a John Deere dealer or having a John Deere-authorized technician come to them. “That’s been a huge complaint,” says Nathan Proctor, who leads US PIRG’s right-to-repair campaign. “Farmers will be relieved to know there might be a non-dealer option for that.”

Other parts of the new agreement, however, are too vague to offer significant help to farmers, proponents of the right to repair say. Although the memorandum has much to say about access to diagnostic tools, farmers need to fix as well as identify problems, says Schweitzer, who raises cattle on his 3,000-acre farm, Tiber Angus, in central Montana. “Being able to diagnose a problem is great, but when you find out that it’s a sensor or electronic switch that needs to be replaced, typically that new part has to be reprogrammed with the electronic control unit on board,” he said. “And it’s unclear whether farmers will have access to those tools.”

Deere spokesperson Haber said that “as equipment continues to evolve and technology advances on the farm, Deere continues to be committed to meeting those innovations with enhanced tools and resources.” The company this year will launch the ability to download software updates directly into some equipment with a 4G wireless connection, he said. But Haber declined to say whether farmers would be able to reprogram equipment parts without the involvement of the company or an authorized dealer.

The new agreement isn’t legally binding. It states that should either party determine that the MOU is no longer viable, all they have to do is provide written notice to the other party of their intent to withdraw. And both US PIRG and Schweitzer note that other influential farmers groups are not party to the agreement, such as the National Farmers Union, where Schweitzer is a board member and runs the Montana chapter. 

Schweitzer is also concerned by the way the agreement is sprinkled with promises to offer farmers or independent repair shops “fair and reasonable terms” on access to tools or information. “‘Fair and reasonable’ to a multibillion-dollar company can be a lot different for a farmer who is in debt, trying to make payments on a $200,000 tractor and then has to pay $8,000 to $10,000 to purchase hardware for repairs,” he says. 

The agreement signed by Deere this week comes on the heels of New York governor Kathy Hochul signing into law the Digital Fair Repair Act, which requires companies to provide the same tools and information to the public that are given to their own repair technicians.

However, while right-to-repair advocates mostly cheered the law as precedent-setting, it was weakened by last-minute compromises to the bill, such as making it applicable only to devices manufactured and sold in New York on or after July 1, 2023, and by excluding medical devices, automobiles, and home appliances.