Guests will not be informed about police list upon check-in

Motel 6 Sending Guests' Personal Info to Police Every Night

Source: Mikael Thalen | |

A Motel 6 in Rhode Island is quietly sending its daily guest list to police, completely unbeknownst to its customers, a report detailed earlier this month.

According to Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, local police secured the deal with several of the motel chain’s corporate managers after the company complained about a rash of criminal activity.

Avedisian confirmed the agreement to the Providence Journal after a closed-door meeting with motel executives, Warwick’s police chief and a town administrator.

“We know everyone who is staying in the hotel tonight,” Avedisian remarked.

Upon receiving the list, police will examine the backgrounds of each motel guest in order to check for outstanding warrants, a policy Avedisian deems necessary due to suspected human trafficking in the area.

Multiple motel guests have already been arrested Avedisian said, although details on the alleged crimes have been minimal.

Despite the policy making local headlines, Motel 6 confirmed that guests will not be informed of the new measure. The motel will also raise the renting age to 21 from 18 and begin sharing its list of banned patrons with other locations nationwide.

“If Motel 6 has identified someone who has caused trouble in their location, I think we want to be able to share that with other hotels,” Avedisian said. “So they don’t experience the same type of difficulty.”

Steven Brown, the Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, is calling the move a clear breach of privacy.

“When visitors go to a hotel for the night, they expect to be treated like guests, not potential criminals,” Brown said. “There are many ways to deal with illegal activities at the motel without engaging in such a wholesale invasion of patrons’ privacy.”

In response to the ACLU’s statement, Warwick Police Chief Col. Stephen M. McCartney argued that his department had not demanded the list, but had been offered the list by Motel 6.

“It was pretty clear that [Motel 6] corporate and the general manager had done an in-depth analysis of their business model and said: ‘What are things we can do to attract the right kind of people here and make sure the undesirable, criminal element doesn’t come?’” McCartney said to the Providence Journal.

As noted by Tech Dirt’s Tim Cushing, the Supreme Court is currently debating the legality of law enforcement’s warrantless access to hotel records.

“Motel 6 has just decided to make it worse,” Cushing wrote. “While warrantless access to motel records is being challenged in the Supreme Court, the chain has decided to preemptively strip away any privacy expectations that may result from court rulings and just hand it all over to law enforcement because sometimes criminals stay in motel rooms.”

Whether or not the company’s bottom line will be affected by privacy-conscious detractors remains to be seen.