Hotels That Spy On You When You're In The Room

from the how-well-does-that-really-work dept

There was an urban legend story that made the rounds a few months ago about how those hotel room keycards contained private info about you on the magnetic strip. This was quickly debunked, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other privacy questions involved with staying in a hotel room. While this NY Times article starts off with that urban myth, it then follows it up with stories about how certain hotels do track when you enter or leave a room. It’s not entirely clearly how they know when you’ve left the room (since you don’t use the key when you leave, and it’s unlikely – at this point – that they’re using RFID chips on the cards to check where you are) but it does raise some privacy issues. Should the hotels you stay in be able to track you so closely? What’s to stop them from adding that RFID chip as well? In the past we’ve written about practical reasons for having such info, such as keeping the heat off when no one is in the room, but adjust it when people are checking in. However, the privacy concerns of being tracked everywhere you go in a hotel could become a concern for many travelers who aren’t comfortable with the idea.

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Comments on “Hotels That Spy On You When You're In The Room”

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Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

A/C, too

Reading the comment about turning the heat off reminded me of a low-budget trip to Las Vegas I took many years back.

I stayed at the Circus Circus and was put in what they call the “manor house” which is basically like a Motel 6 built on their back lot, so I wasn’t technically “in” the Circus Circus, but in a building back behind the hotel/casino.

Whenever you entered the room, the A/C would be going full blast and you could hear it running. When you laid down to sleep, after a while you would hear it shut off and just when it would get unbearably warm and you would get up to kick it, it would come back on. After going through this process a few times I realized that there was a motion sensor that was turning the A/C off after approx 15 minutes of no motion in the room.

I then bent up a wire coat hanger and used it to hang a shirt near the A/C vent so that it would flap in the breeze and keep the motion sensor happy.

Since then, I have made it a point to never stay at the Circus Circus and I’ve been to Vegas at least a dozen times since (mostly on business, sadly).

If they go to an RFID tag system, I’ll just request an extra key and leave it in my room 24/7…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A/C, too


You’ve got the right idea !
Request two cards.
Furthermore, every time you leave the room have the attendants lock it in the safe in the lobby.

Whenever I check in anywhere, I always leave the TV running weather or not I am in the room as a cheap additional security measure. It’s none of the hotels business weather or not I’m in the room. I’ve paid for it & I will use it as I see fit.

PS, Thanks to to the person who posted information about how to fool the sensor in order to keep the air conditioning on 🙂

Jesus, doesn’t anyone car about their privacy anymore ?

NOBODY (user link) says:

No Subject Given

Think about the service options that would be available if they knew where you were all the time. The hotel could sense when you’re leaving your room and going to the mess hall. They could have your order ready before you get there. That would be neat. Several other things I could think of that would really work in a hotel. They could call the cab for you as you head downstairs. If they had them over the city, you could have an army of goods and services available at your beckon call. Might be incredibly interesting.

Armin (user link) says:

Key cards and tracking if you're in the room

I stayed in a hotel once (I think it was the airport hotel in Athens/Greece) where you had to put your keycard into a slot in the wall to be able to use anything at all. The light, television, aircondition etc only worked when the card was in the slot.

That way it’s fairly easy to track if you’re in the room. As not much works without the card it will be in the slot while you’re there. And when you leave the room you obviously need to take the card with you to get back into the room.

Now they only need to connect this slot in the wall with some tracking mechanism and they’re done. I don’t know if that was done in that hotel, but I can’t imagine it being too difficult.

G says:

Re: Key cards and tracking if you're in the room

Been in the same set up in a couple of places (Greece, Belize) – basically no utilities unless a card is in the slot. The trick to having an american style cool room when you returned was to jam any card in the slot. My grocery discount card worked perfectly.

No reason this couldn’t be networked and tracked though.

Bt Garner says:

Re: Re: Key cards and tracking if you're in the room

Lots of Euro hotels have this feature.

I generally just folded up a piece of paper and shoved in there. Works like a charm.

As best I can tell, those slots are not wired to anything, they are merely there to prevent unnecessary power usage when no one is in the room.

Feline says:

Just had a (somewhat) related interesting experien

I am currently in my hotel room (Hilton family of hotels) with the door not locked but the manual bar lock (used to be a chain; I’m not sure what it’s called now) closed. Since I did not have the internal lock engaged, I don’t think that being inside the room is relevant, since I cannot imagine that there is any type of sensor on the manual bar lock.
Just a moment ago, a woman tried to use her key to access my room. After the second or third try, my fire alarm (sound and light) began going off each time she tried the key. Obviously, I looked out the peephole and told her that she must have the wrong room, at which point she apologized and left. The fire alarm then stopped. As a side note, I’ve stayed in this place before and never noticed whether there was a fire alarm strobe light – I was put into a handicapped room this time (for the first time), so the light may be only in the handicapped rooms.
Anyway, I travel a lot, so I’ve been in situations where someone accidentally tried to come into my room, but have never had the fire alarm come on in response!

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