Airbnb Posts First Profit, Faces Backlash – Spotlight #453

Good Monday Morning

It’s March 13th. Friday is St. Patrick’s Day and also falls during Lent. Because observant Catholics often eat meatless dishes on Lenten Fridays, The Catholic News Agency has compiled a map showing which diocesan bishops have granted dispensation to allow their faithful to indulge in corned beef. So far, 80 bishops of 137 who answered are allowing the traditional holiday meal.

Today’s Spotlight is 986 words — about 4 minutes to read.

Spotlight On …  Airbnb

In February, Airbnb reported its first-ever profit with 2022 net income of $1.89 billion. The company says it has 6.6 million active property listings, but continues to face negative attention over fees, safety, and privacy. Municipal officials in multiple cities are also concerned about lost tax revenues and housing shortages.

New York City Landlords Want Bans

New city regulations limit short-term rentals and tax landlords who rent out their properties. City officials also pushed for more enforcement of existing regulations, including fines for landlords. Reports indicate that the owners of 1,500 NYC buildings have signed up for a short-term rental ban on properties that they own.

Airbnb Screening Out Visitors

Airbnb “sometimes” bans guests associated with people it considers a safety threat, Motherboard reported last week. One woman was flagged by Airbnb’s 3rd party verification service late last year for an unresolved leash law and dog license violation a decade earlier. She lost her first appeal, but media attention led to her reinstatement.

Ratings Inflation

On a 5-star scale, Airbnb’s average rating was 4.74 in 2022, perhaps owing to Airbnb removing poorly performing hosts and properties and no longer counting those low ratings. One Airbnb host now sells refrigerator magnets on Etsy that explain to guests that hosts averaging 4.7 stars risk being delisted. 

Cameras On Premises

Hosts laud the ability to monitor their property while it’s vacant or has new guests. Others say guests appreciate knowing the property’s exterior can be monitored, but hidden cameras or those in bedrooms and bathrooms are not allowed. Those disclosures cover a lot of surveillance. One renter told Business Insider she uses her camera to watch out for unaccompanied minors and parties. Her camera also lets her charge guests extra for early arrivals and late departures.

Roami Closes Another Financing Round

The short-term rental market is crowded, including Expedia unit Vrbo, but newly-rebranded Roami is catching attention for its business model. Formerly Sextant Stays, the company owns 500 units in South Florida and New Orleans and manages the customer’s entire experience like a hotel while also offering short-term rental listings. Last week, Roami raised $14 million in equity to invest in new properties.

3 More Stories to Know

1) Some well-known tech companies may face big losses after Silicon Valley Bank crashed on Friday. Streaming service Roku holds nearly $500 million in deposits, while Roblox holds $150 million. Both companies have reported that they are not expecting significant difficulties as a result of the bank’s failure.

Friday was probably not a good day for Wells Fargo to also suffer what it called technical issues that caused some customers’ direct deposits to not be credited to their accounts. The bank said it would ensure customers were not charged any fees as a result of the problem.2)  After hearing enough about GPT-3, get ready for GPT-4. The new version of the software will be released this week, according to Microsoft Germany CTO Andreas Braun. The software was developed by Open AI, which Microsoft has invested more than $10 billion in.

3) Facebook parent Meta is preparing for more layoffs, according to WSJ reporting this weekend. Meta laid off 11,000 people last year and plans to cut a similar number. These are the company’s first broad layoffs ever, and so far workers have received at least four months’ severance, with some receiving more based on tenure.

Trends & Spends

Did That Really Happen? — Falsehoods Spread Faster Online

Three MIT researchers have completed the largest longitudinal study of falsehoods online and say that untruths reach people up to six times faster than the truth. They also report that the spread of false information online is increasing.

Following Up — LastPass Hack Was At Employee’s Home

After sharing stories of multiple incursions and hacks of password manager LastPass, we learned some truly awful news last week.  After the most recent hack, criminals targeted four DevOps employees at home. One of them was using an unpatched media server at home that hackers managed to infiltrate. They then used the employee’s credentials to gain entrance to LastPass and steal millions of encrypted password records. The employee’s unpatched software was almost three years out of date.

PSA: Stop skipping your software updates. 

Protip — USA Today’s Four Flags To Check Airbnb Listings

Even USA Today piled on to Airbnb last week. The paper shares four flags to check listings for scams — including the very smart reverse image search.

Screening Room Northwell Health’s Ferocious Tiger

Science Fiction World — Chocolate 3D Printers Come Home

They’re not quite Star Trek replicators yet, but Cocoa Press is selling home and commercial 3D printers that use chocolate instead of plastic as a base. An assembly kit is $1,500 and prebuilt commercial units are $4,000.

Coffee Break —  Check Air Pollution in Your Neighborhood

The Guardian has published an amazing interactive map that lets you see the amount of fine particulate air pollution in each of the 85,000 census tracts in the US. It’s an important measure of air pollution that causes and exacerbates health conditions.

Top 3 worst areas: Bakersfield, South Los Angeles, and Chicago’s South & West Sides.

Explore here.

Sign of the Times

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