Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn
On November 2, 2019, Brian Chesky, Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and Head of Community of Airbnb – an online marketplace for arranging or offering lodging – announced in several tweets on Twitter that Airbnb would ban “party houses” and expand screening in response to a shooting at a house party at an Airbnb rental on Halloween night in Orinda, California that left five people dead.
Chesky tweeted: Starting today, we are banning “party houses” and we are redoubling our efforts to combat unauthorized parties and get rid of abusive host and guest conduct, including conduct that leads to the terrible events we saw in Orinda. Here is what we are doing:
First, we are expanding manual screening of high-risk reservations flagged by our risk detection technology. Second, we are creating a dedicated “party house” rapid response team. Third, we are taking immediate action against users who violate these enhanced guest policies, including removal.
I have directed Margaret Richardson from our Executive Team to oversee this new team and initiate a 10 day sprint to review and accelerate the development and implementation of these new safety initiatives. We must do better, and we will. This is unacceptable.
The Halloween shooting in Orinda – a city in Contra Costa County located just east of Berkeley that was ranked the second most friendly town in America by Forbes in 2012 – “is not the only tragedy to strike at one of the short-term rentals around the world that have replaced hotels for millions of travelers over the decade since Airbnb first launched,” according to a report from the San Jose Mercury News.
The Mercury News report cited a 2017 survey from travel advice website Asher & Lyric – “Is Airbnb Safe? We Analyzed 1,021 Horror Stories to Find Out” – that researched incidents from review sites, major news outlets, and travel bloggers and “found everything from murders, rapes, and kidnappings associated with short-term rentals to sketchy hosts using secret cameras to spy on their guests.”
An Airbnb spokesman told the Mercury News that the company “has a number of tools to help hosts and their guests” be safe including background checks that screen hosts and guests “globally against regulatory, terrorist, and sanctions watch lists. For United States residents, we also run background checks looking for prior felony convictions, sex offender registrations, and significant misdemeanors.”
Airbnb is part of the rapidly growing “gig economy” – also known as the “trust economy” – that is generally thought of as workers providing services but can also include individuals who provide assets using software. A housing application, or “app,” such as Airbnb allows homeowners to share their unused asset, in this case, a place to sleep to third parties on demand.
Other examples of gig economy firms are transportation apps such as Uber and Lyft where car owners can “share” their car and time with others, and websites that provide access to caregivers, babysitters, home repair workers, house cleaners, tutors, and deliverers of groceries, meals, and dry cleaning. Advances in technology have enabled such sharing to occur by providing real-time information to both providers and users.
Essential to the success of gig economy companies is that consumers trust the services they provide are safe to use. However, the basic problem for this trust economy is “trust,” explains background check expert Attorney Lester Rosen, in his article “Why Consumers Cannot Trust the Trust Economy – The Inherent Conflict of Interest between Gig Economy Firms and their Customers and How to Fix It.”
Rosen – the founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – tells how documented cases and negative publicity surrounding the selection of trust economy workers who prove not to be safe can pose a risk to consumers who want these firms to be selective, do proper vetting, and ensure workers undergo a rigorous background check. While the article refers to workers, it also applies to firms providing assets such as housing.
However, Rosen – author of “The Safe Hiring Manual” – explains that in order to get the requisite numbers of workers, trust economy firms must attract them as quickly and cheaply as possible since spending time and money to be selective is not in their short term best interest. As a result of this “need for speed” and the desire to attract warm bodies to do work, these firms have an incentive to do the opposite of what consumers would want.
“As the trust economy grows, stories of consumers being harmed by criminal acts of providers can be expected to increase. Given the negative fallout from such publicity to any firm in the trust marketplace space, it would seem that an effort to create some standardized and generally accepted background screening protocols would be of great benefit to both providers and consumers,” Rosen wrote.
“The solution is for firms in the trust economy to formulate a nationally accepted standardized approach to due diligence and background checks. The keywords are ‘nationally accepted.’ Merely creating self-serving industry standards that benefit the gig marketplace will not go nearly far enough to assure consumers, the government, or plaintiff’s lawyers that the sector is truly regulating itself,” he concluded.
Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check provider – offers a complimentary white paper entitled “Background Screening of Extended Workforce Necessary to Compete in Modern Economy” to help gig economy employers screen their non-traditional workers that is available at www.esrcheck.com/Tools-Resources/Whitepaper-Library/Screening-of-Exteneded-Workforce/.
ESR also provides state of the art technology and integrations that help on-demand firms quickly and efficiently screen gig economy workers from the extended workforce by utilizing a RESTful JSON Background Check API that seamlessly builds an engine to enable fast and accurate background checks. To learn more, visit www.esrcheck.com/Background-Checks/Industry-Specific-Solutions/On-Demand/.
NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.
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