New tool shows sex offenders living near AirBnB rentals.

A new tool, ShareSafer, is allowing users of the popular online home sharing rental service AirBnB to check whether there’s any registered sex offenders near the AirBnB lodgings they’re looking to book. In New York, there’s nearly 7,000 registered sex offenders, and 20,000 home sharing listings on AirBnB. The site also allows AirBnB customers to check for outstanding building-code violations for a building in which Airbnb listings are located.

The tool is pretty specific, allowing AirBnB guests to locate their booking address on a city map and then view a map with a cluster of red pins indicating the number of convicted sex offenders who live within a few blocks of their booking and precise information about each offender’s crime. AirBnB is not down with the site – thinking it will simply act to scare off their potential customers. Although there’s no shortage of fear already existing, with horror stories floating around – one host unknowingly rented his flat to meth users and came back to find meth pipes everywhere, holes smashed in his cupboards and axe marks on the doors.   

AirBnB, who have listings in over 30,000 cities, are close to becoming one of the world’s most valuable start ups, having recently been valued at 10 billion (from an initial $200 million valuation in 2012) and there’s increasing speculation that the company’s going public this year, particularly since this month’s departure of the company’s finance chief (often new CFOs are recruited just prior to a company reaching a size where they’re required to make a public offering – for instance, Twitter employing Mike Gupto a year before listing shares). Look at their offices ffs:

airbnb office

AirBnB’s idealistic CEO has plenty of ideas about the larger role of AirBnB in the economy; recently pointing towards his hope that AirBnB will bring in a new golden age of urban living, where “space isn’t wasted, but shared with others…where people become micro-entrepreneurs…where space isn’t wasted, but shared with others.”

 “Cities are the original sharing platforms,” wrote Chesky in a visual essay on Medium recently called ‘Shared City’ (read the whole thing if you get the chance, it’s awesome). “They formed at ancient crossroads of trade, and grew through collaboration and sharing resources. But over time, they began to feel mass produced. We lived closer together, but drifted farther apart. But sharing in cities is back, and we want to help build this future.” 

From the looks of it, the company’s flirting with using AirBnB to create marketplaces for other services  - currently it’s floated the idea of making hosts amateur restaurateurs, Reuters recently reported that AirBnB is inviting hosts to hold dinner parties for strangers and charge them a fee. Whether or not this plan will fall prey to government regulation remains to be seen. 

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