Open Letter to Airbnb Regarding Users Data in Abu Dhabi

On February 16 2022, Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT Abu Dhabi) and Airbnb for vacation rental, signed a Memorandum of Understanding “to help regulate and enhance this growing market within the tourism sector.” However, this agreement requires Airbnb “to provide a limited amount of data about transactions,” without any details about the kind and amount of data shared with the authorities.

The UAE is well known for its human rights violations, spyware usage for personal and mass surveillance, banning free access to the internet and internet calls (VOIP) while using similar apps to spy on residents.

With the UAE’s poor track record in human rights, the data provided could be harmful to human rights defenders and to all users in general.

We have some questions to Airbnb about this MOU with the authorities in Abu Dhabi:

  • Did Airbnb look at ​​The Data Protection Law in UAE that came into force on 2 January 2022 and did they notice that with its exclusion fall such MOU since it will be considered governmental data, which means no protection on users personal data will  be in place.
  • What is the “important data” that the company will share with DCT Abu Dhabi? Please can you detail all the data, and meta data collected and shared? 
  • What are the details of the taxation within this MOU, and who is the party that will pay the price and what is the percentage, and will this affect the current prices of Airbnb within Abu Dhabi? 

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SMEX is a registered Lebanese NGO that works to advance self-regulating information societies in the Middle East and North Africa.