Motel Decides It Should Just Start Faxing All Guest Info To Local Police Every Night

from the corporate-suckup dept

The Third Party Doctrine is ridiculous. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies routinely exploit this loophole to warrantlessly access all sorts of data because of the stupid assertion that anything you “voluntarily” turn over to a third party carries no expectation of privacy. The agencies blow right past the reality of the situation: that any “voluntary” exchange of personal data for services is anything but voluntary. Service providers won’t provide you with an internet connection or cell phone service without collecting massive amounts of usage data. Hotels and motels won’t rent you a room unless you tell them who you are and provide documentation to back up your claims.

So, it’s stupid all over and no one’s in any hurry to fix it because drugs need to be warred against and terrorists must be handcrafted by FBI undercover agents and the rest of whatever. The courts have generally refused to stretch the Fourth Amendment to cover the data created by these involuntary exchanges. That’s a problem and one that is only very slowly being addressed.

Motel 6 has just decided to make it worse. 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.

City police have arrested four people staying at the Motel 6 on Jefferson Boulevard as a result of the hotel chain’s agreement to provide police with a daily guest list, Mayor Scott Avedisian said Tuesday.

The names of Motel 6 guests, which police then check for outstanding warrants, is one of five steps Motel 6 corporate managers agreed to take in response to a string of high-profile incidents and concerns the establishment was becoming a haven for passing criminals.

Everything about this is pure bootlicking dickishness. See if you can finish reading this statement without looking for something to wipe all the “smug” off you.

“We know everyone who is staying in the hotel tonight,” [Mayor Scott] Avedisian said in a phone interview after a meeting with Motel 6 executives that also included Warwick police chief Col. Stephen M. McCartney and Seekonk, Mass., Town Administrator Shawn E. Cadime.

Great. And that’s your business why? Oh, because some arrests were made. A modicum of successful law enforcement cures all privacy ills, etc.

Motel 6’s spokesmouths aren’t exactly coming across as champions of the people either.

As of now, guests who check-in at Warwick’s Motel 6 will not be told their names are on a list that goes to the police station every night.

Alerting motel guests that local police know their whereabouts “is not a normal process of our check-in,” said Victor Glover, a vice president of safety and security for G6 Hospitality, the parent company for Motel 6. “I don’t know that we have any plans of instituting that as we move forward.”

Now that Motel 6 has stepped up to serve as a purveyor of moderately-priced rooms and a fully compliant police informant, law enforcement’s foot is completely wedged in the door between room rentals and personal privacy. Mayor Avedisian plans to use Motel 6’s kowtowing as leverage against other hotels and motels in the area.

Avedisian said now that Motel 6 has agreed to share its national “do not rent” list of problem guests, he intends to reach out to the Rhode Island Hospitality Association to see if other establishments in the city would be willing to do the same.

I have no problem with private businesses maintaining lists of customers they won’t do business with and passing on this information to police if the list contains suspected criminals. But that’s miles away from what Motel 6 has agreed to do — hand over information on everybody who rents a room before the police even ask for it. That’s just begging for a lawsuit.

The Warwick police chief says his department never demanded this level of compliance. This was Motel 6’s own offering in response to a couple of high profile sex trafficking arrests and pressure from the city, which threatened it with lawsuits and additional regulation. Rather than recognize it as the sort of unfortunate thing that happens from time to time and just move on, Motel 6’s execs decided the solution was to fax over a list of guests every evening. The police have no idea on what sort of privacy protections it will put into force — if anything. Police Chief Stephen McCartney has passed the buck to the state attorney general… as if that mainly-prosecutorial office is going to issue tough restrictions on data retention or meaningful privacy protections.

The Third Party Doctrine is already terrible enough. What it doesn’t need is do-gooders like Motel 6 erasing what minimal line there is between its customers’ data and law enforcement.

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Comments on “Motel Decides It Should Just Start Faxing All Guest Info To Local Police Every Night”

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83 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

This ‘voluntarily’ thing is debatable. I would love to stay at places and use services without providing my personal data, you know, take my money and gimme the service but you can’t do it in this age for many things. Technically you don’t need any identification to provide a room for anyone. Nor any info to provide a mobile line. Fixed line and internet would need only the location and nothing else. The anonymous customer didn’t pay? Cut the line.

But alas the Government itself mandates identification on many of those services as a security measure for everybody involved. So where it is truly voluntary?

Paying by cash is still the most anonymous way to get somwe things (along with bitcoin nowadays). We haven’t seen the death of cold hard cash yet because the powers themselves benefit on the anonymity of it for their excusable businesses. So, yeah, privacy will be maintained for those who can pay for it.

MikeC (profile) says:

Re: privacy policy

Guess is doesn’t violate Motel 6 Privacy:

Compliance with Law

We may disclose Guest Information to law enforcement agencies, or may be required to disclose it during the discovery process in litigation, pursuant to a court order, or in compliance with any applicable law, regulation, rule or ordinance.

Their choice I guess.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 privacy policy

I’d say it does violate it. “We may disclose …” is not equal to “We will disclose …”

So whether they disclose the information or not, it doesn’t violate the policy.

“May” implies (to a reasonable person who understands what the word means) that it could happen under certain specific, hopefully extraordinary, circumstances. It’s used by lawyers to cover their client’s butt.

“Will” implies something entirely different; a certainty. At the very least it’s misleading, and as a potential customer I’d be incensed that I was lied to by someone who’s taking my money.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 privacy policy

“May” implies (to a reasonable person who understands what the word means) that it could happen under certain specific, hopefully extraordinary, circumstances.

I think you’re reading way too much into that word. If you see the word “may” in a contract you’re signing, it would be foolish to assume that it means what you say absent any other specifics. Rather, it means this is something that the contract permits – nothing more. Informal usage may (ha!) be a different story, but this context is a terms of service document.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 privacy policy

“”May” implies (to a reasonable person who understands what the word means) that it could happen under certain specific, hopefully extraordinary, circumstances.”

I disagree. When I see “may” in contracts, I interpret it to mean that the party can engage in that behavior if they choose to, and if there’ no conditionals in the contract, then they can do so for any reason and without notifying the other parties in the contract.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 privacy policy

“May” implies (to a reasonable person who understands what the word means) that it could happen under certain specific, hopefully extraordinary, circumstances. It’s used by lawyers to cover their client’s butt.

More properly, the word is the “permissive” form of “may”…”we are allowed”. Since this is an “agreement” between “you” and the “chain” as defined by the chain, allowing itself to perform the act, the permissive form in this usage is best expressed as “we reserve the right to”. As in:

We reserve the right to disclose Guest Information to law enforcement agencies, or may be required to disclose it during the discovery process in litigation, pursuant to a court order, or in compliance with any applicable law, regulation, rule or ordinance.

MikeC (profile) says:

Re: privacy policy

Further — franchisee’s don’t have to comply at all:

Franchisees

Some of our locations are owned and operated by independent franchisees that are neither owned nor controlled by G6 Hospitality, its affiliates or subsidiaries. Each franchisee may collect Guest Information and use such information for its own purposes. G6 Hospitality does not control the use or access of such information collected by franchisees.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Another entry

Were you really planning on staying at a Motel 6 before this article came out?

Perhaps I am wrong, but I would imagine that the majority of their clientele are prostitutes or their customers, so I would think that this is probably not the best marketing move they have made.

It may be that they are not all disgusting, dirty, poorly-maintained, sub-par to begin with rooms, but the one time I actually walked into a Motel 6 (granted, a long time ago), I decided it would be safer to stay in my car.

PRMan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Another entry

There is a Motel 6 walking distance from my workplace. It’s an industrial park in an otherwise bad part of town and I used to see prostitutes on the corner every day when I left.

The motel management was sick of it but being the cheapest place you attract that sort of clientele. I do know that they have been asking corporate for new tools to fight this.

About a year ago, they had raids every day for several days. After that, they remodeled and the place is clean and nice and I never see any shady people hanging around anymore.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Another entry

“Were you really planning on staying at a Motel 6 before this article came out?”

I don’t know if many people actually plan to stay at a Motel 6 — but I have stayed at many of them nonetheless. For example, when I’m on a long road trip and stumble into a town at 2am and I just need a bed, I tend to gravitate towards Motel 6 (or HoJo’s, or other national chains of similar status) for the same reason that people eat at McDonald’s: what you get may suck, but it’s cheap and you know what it will be. Joe’s Random Fleabag Motel could very well be a lot worse.

(No, I’m not going to pay for a good quality room when I’m literally going to just be using the bed for a few hours.)

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Another entry

Yeah, that assumption that cheap hotels are only used for illegal activities? That’s what allows this kind of bullshit to go on. Id imagine that assumption is wrong. For one, if I wouldn’t sleep there, why would I fuck there?

Drugs (users and dealers) are more likely actually. But even then, if I travel, I normally don’t have the cash to afford a more upscale place. And normally the only thing I need is a place to rest my head. Most Motel 6’s I’ve been too are clean enough for that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Another entry

Motel 6 is your basic cheap decent motel. I’ve stayed in them dozens of times when travelling, including a couple of them at regular destinations where I’ve had 10+ stays. I’ve never had a sense of anything inappropriate going on (drugs, prostitution, etc) though maybe it’s because the specific ones I’ve been in were in locations not conducive to that sort of thing. But either way, I’m not going there any more, because of this police state complicity.

Eddy says:

Re: Re:

The hotel is the 3rd party. The other 2 are the state and the defendant in a criminal proceeding. There’s no legal privilege with a service provider the way there would be with your attorney or doctor.

I’m not endorsing this state of affairs, just answering your question about what they mean by ‘third party’.

DB (profile) says:

I’ve stayed at Motel 6 multiple times, and the rooms were fine. It’s not the top of my list, but not the bottom either.

The most recent hotel I stayed at was not a Motel 6. It was clearly serving the “hourly trade”. I needed a basic room for sleeping and a parking lot with good security, so my requirements apparently overlapped with theirs. Not
a surprise.. it has happened before.

Lower priced hotels are far more likely to get that reputation. The people using the rooms aren’t going to be using a pool, exercise room, club room, free happy hour drinks, business center, airport shuttle, concierge or all of those other amenities that justify paying much more for the room.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: slippery flat area?

I dont understand your comment. You are implictly answering yes to my first question, as shown by answering the second, conditional question. So please, enlighten me as to the court case that ruled that.

As to your answer of my second question-Why, if they could get in whenever the maid could (which is all the time, do not disturb or not) would them pretending to be a ‘third’ party (police would also be a third party, so I fail to see the distinction) help them gain access to the room? I guess because they dont have to worry about the ‘safety bolt’ then?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: slippery flat area?

According to Riddell Law, a warrant is (in most cases) required to search a hotel room. Being allowed in by the hotel or its employees is not sufficient as long as the guest is legally occupying the room.

Generally, “a hotel employee may enter a room in performance of its duties, but they cannot per se authorize or give consent to a police search of that room.” State v. Miller, 77 Ohio App.3d 305, 602 N.E.2d 296 (8th Dist.1991), citing Stoner v. California, 376 U.S. 483, 84 S.Ct. 889, 11 L.Ed.2d 856 (1964).

The only way to give up your privacy interest in the hotel room is to:

Check out;
Return the key without paying for another night;
Voluntarily abandoning the room;
Be kicked out of the hotel (evicted from the room by taking affirmative steps to repossess the room, such as asking the guest to leave).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: slippery flat area?

The only way to give up your privacy interest in the hotel room is to…

Your list is not exhaustive.

For one, consent may be given when the DEA shows up at your door, as held in this recent (unpublished) decision from the 11th Circuit, U.S. v Johnson (April 24, 2015).

Here, the district court did not err in denying the first motion to suppress on the basis that the agents obtained voluntary consent to enter the hotel room. At the suppression hearing, the district court was presented with two conflicting versions of events . . .

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 slippery flat area?

(Just for the record, that wasn’t my list. That was a quote from the website I cited.)

“For one, consent may be given when the DEA shows up at your door”

That’s addressing a different thing entirely: where the guest is giving consent to the search. My assumption is that the same rules apply there as apply everywhere else. What I was quoting was specifically talking about the hotel giving consent to a search, not the guest.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 slippery flat area?

What I was quoting was specifically talking about the hotel giving consent to a search, not the guest.

I briefly skimmed your link, but let’s instead focus on what you excerpted.

• Check out;
• Return the key without paying for another night;
• Voluntarily abandoning the room;
•  . . .

Those first three list items are actions typically performed by the guest.

In fact when the excerpt asserts “The only way to give up your privacy interest in the hotel room is to”, a native reader of English with any smidgen of experience at hotels would regard that as a list of actions performed by the guest.

The list just isn’t exhaustive. When it asserts “only” — it’s plain wrong on the “only”. That’s all.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 slippery flat area?

Id argue that allowing DEA agents to search your room does not give up your privacy interest in the room. You haven’t given a blanket right for everyone, everywhere, anytime, to look into that room. You have only given a temporary pass to search the room to a specific set of individuals. If they came back tomorrow, you can deny them then, because you still have a privacy interest in the room

BeGladIdontdoRevenge says:

Re: Re: Re:5 slippery flat area?

allowing DEA agents to search your room does not give up your privacy interest.

WHAT BULLSHIT

What if the previous tenet left meth in the airducts?
Willing to spend a nickel in jail?

You are truly fucking stupid (you CAN FIX this) in my opinion, that or a .gov fucktarded shill.

Furthermore, they SPY on the phone line going into the room, and they hand the keys to the room door lock to the COPS. Along with your (or what used to be) your vehicle. The cops aren’t breaking the door down, they’re using the FUCKING KEY!
There’s no negotiations about property, it’s SEIZED and GONE.

(I am actually strong enough to hold the fucking DOOR knob closed against the COPS, and I DID, but ultimately it did NOT help.)

They aren’t getting warrants the OWNER IS CALLING THE COPS and then HANDING OVER THE FUCKING KEY.

I speak with AUTHORITY. I KNOW. I LOST SHIT.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 slippery flat area?

I speak with AUTHORITY.

why are you typing like that?

The caps lock guy is typing to convince us that he’s a narc.

He’s probably trying to remind us all of Hoffa v United States (1966).

 . . . James Hoffa was president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. During the course of the trial he occupied a three-room suite in the Andrew Jackson Hotel in Nashville. One of his constant companions throughout the trial was the petitioner King, president of the Nashville local of the Teamsters Union. Edward Partin, a resident of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and a local Teamsters Union official there, made repeated visits to Nashville during the period of the trial. On these visits he frequented the Hoffa hotel suite, and was continually in the company of Hoffa and his associates, including King, in and around the hotel suite, the hotel lobby, the courthouse, and elsewhere in Nashville. During this period Partin made frequent reports to a federal agent named Sheridan concerning conversations he said Hoffa and King had had with him and with each other . . .

[W]e hold that no right protected by the Fourth Amendment was violated in the present case.

So that’s another way to give up your privacy interest in a hotel room: Invite a government informant in.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 slippery flat area?

( Oh, Fenderson, btw —if you remember from a few days ago— the case that just I linked above, Johnson, briefly discusses the governments’s burden on voluntary consent, with case cites. See p.6: “The government bears the burden of proving that consent was voluntarily and freely given and was not the product of coercion or mere submission to police authority.” The case also illustrates how that sometimes gets applied in practice. )

MikeC (profile) says:

Does that make the info public knowledge - IE FOIA?

Can you request those lists w/a FOIA req? Do they notice local officials and other leading lights who might use that hotel for shall we say extra curricular activities? Could end up with all kinds of interesting scenarios?

Want to bet when someone is going to request a copy of all those lists in conjunction with some court civil or criminal case? They are opening themselves up to all kinds of non-intended consequences here.

yankinwaoz (profile) says:

How is this news?

I don’t understand why Motel 6 is being picked on for this. This is not news. Nor is it unique to Motel 6.

Many cities, states, and countries require hotels to track their customers and report them all to the police. So I always assume that my information given to a hotel is being passed directly to local law enforcement because in most cases, it is.

For example: in Italy you are required by law to leave your passport with the innkeeper. They, in turn, are required to allow the cops to rummage through the passports and take whatever info they want.

It sounds me to like Providence, RI is just late the game in realizing that they can demand this data. Motel 6 is very used to this, because they already do it any many, many other places. So do all the other hotels.

And yes, the local vice squads are the LEO’s that are most interested in this data.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How is this news?

It’s news (new information) to some people and that it is still happening is still relevant to others who already knew or suspected that it was going on or was likely to be going on. There shouldn’t be an expiration on people being outraged by this. A good boycott or a lawsuit could go a long way in reducing the practice and maybe the person to launch such actions hasn’t heard about it yet or hasn’t felt that it reached enough of a feverpitch yet to do something about it.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: How is this news?

Demanding/Requesting the data =/= automatic handoff before the data is asked for. Italy =/= the US. If the only example you have of a motel automatically handing data to the police proactively is hotels in Italy holding on to your ID (really? Does that mean once i check in I can’t leave till I check out? How does one take a lengthly trip to Italy and see the sights? Or are the pla ces you are talking about hourly rentals? Cause motel 6 is by the night…) so that if the police want to they can come by and take down your information, you are making several false equivilencies, notably the differences between US and Italian law, and the difference between handing information the police ask for and faxing your passport over the the police just in case.

This is news because instead of doing the former, they are doing the latter.

Anonymous Coward says:

City of Los Angeles v Patel

There’s a related case pending before the Supreme Court. Here’s the SCOTUS blog summary…

City of Los Angeles v Patel
Docket No.: 13-1175
Op. Below: 9th Cir.
Argument: Mar 3, 2015
Opinion: TBD
Vote: TBD
Author: TBD
Term: OT 2014

Issue: (1) Whether facial challenges to ordinances and statutes are permitted under the Fourth Amendment; and (2) whether a hotel has an expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment in a hotel guest registry where the guest-supplied information is mandated by law and an ordinance authorizes the police to inspect the registry, and if so, whether the ordinance is facially unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment unless it expressly provides for pre-compliance judicial review before the police can inspect the registry.

(Slightly reformatted, emphasis added.)

JoeO says:

This is were this article falls flat in its face: “Rather than recognize it as the sort of unfortunate thing that happens from time to time and just move on.” The hotel could reduce criminal activity by simply advertising their site-specific policy.

If the author has never seen a hotel degenerate into a safe haven for criminality, then they need to get out more.

Sending registration info to the cops is problematic, but there are two sides to the issue, and both must be considered.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

… then they need to get out more.

Why would anyone want to go out? The whole god-damn country is turning into a totalitarian prison. Checkpoints, searches, arbitrary detention, show your id here, show your id there. Now take off your shoes and your belt buckle, empty your pockets, put your keys and cellphones in the tray.

If I didn’t live here, I certainly wouldn’t visit for fun. Maybe for an educational experience, like visiting the Soviet Union.

… there are two sides to the issue…

The right side and the wrong side.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No, we can’t move to Canada. You spread myth now, as it isn’t POSSIBLE to “move to Canada”, what we need to do is face these oath breaking pieces of shit down. Why people allowed this oath breaking shit without serious bloody screaming and outright revolt in the first place is the question? Been allowed to be PUSSIFIED by the system is what it is. YOU FEAR DEATH. PUSSY.

Tell ya what, go have an NDE, and or NEARLY DIE, then you will get MY ATTITUDE, FUCK THESE TREASONOUS MOTHERFUCKERS.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The hotel could reduce criminal activity by simply advertising their site-specific policy.

Yeah, but they didn’t.

Alerting motel guests that local police know their whereabouts “is not a normal process of our check-in,” said Victor Glover, a vice president of safety and security for G6 Hospitality, the parent company for Motel 6. “I don’t know that we have any plans of instituting that as we move forward.”

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“The hotel could reduce criminal activity by simply advertising their site-specific policy.”

…which would also reduce the number of non-criminal people willing to stay there.

“If the author has never seen a hotel degenerate into a safe haven for criminality, then they need to get out more.”

I don’t see any sign that the author (or anyone commenting on the story) is unaware that this happens. That’s not the issue. The issue is having the hotel autoreport everyone just for the crime of using their hotel.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

…which would also reduce the number of non-criminal people willing to stay there.

Hence why they are careful not to make the policy public. If they really believed that their actions were justified in order to decrease criminals or potential criminals from using their facilities, then they would have no problem making their actions, and the justifications for it, plain to see for anyone who might be thinking of staying there. That they don’t makes it pretty clear that they don’t think their actions would be seen as an acceptable price for staying there by their guests.

Alex says:

Quality depends on location

The quality depends on the location. I’ve stayed at them many times while driving cross-country and they’re usually decent motels in rural areas just off of interstates. I doubt there are many prostitutes at these places because of the number of traveling families and the easier business at truck stops.

The shady places have been in urban areas, especially away from interstates.

BeGladIdontdoRevenge says:

sacramento - Alhambra - Motel 6

You know the area, near Safeway, on alhambra, and that street parallel to the freeway.
That rat commie SPIES on the PHONES LINES.
AND call the cops on ya, who will then take your vehicle and property and put you in jail.

PURE EVIL SHIT
NEVER STAY THERE!

You are better off just doing a left turn, right turn left, right, left, right and using intuition and judgement; randomly park and sleep in your car in a residential neighbourhood (say near McKinley Park / or anywhere basically in East Sac.) to get LESS TROUBLE, Save MONEY, and not GENERATE DATA, probably not even noticed if you don’t fuck with the home owners. (where “fuck with” means SEEN BY, if seen, MOVE, and pick another spot.)

Bman (profile) says:

What you get at Motel 6

Up until this news; I as an OTR truck driver had spent many nights in the Motel 6s that do have truck parking across this country. They usually weren’t bad for the price, and I have never encountered prostitutes or criminals at any of them.
When I first learn that I was going to be spending a night or few in a motel; I would look at the various motel/hotel books that I had and seek those that were enroute and had parking. I would then call the ones on my list and ask about prices, sit down restaurants and convenience stores with-in walking distance, ect. I would then make my choice.
Motel 6’s usually have room doors that go outside whereas Super 8’s usually have room doors open into hallways. Super 8’s include free Internet and Motel 6’s usually charged extra for it. I have not yet been to a Motel 6 that serves breakfast, so you have to spend more money at a restaurant or fast food joint. Super 8’s have always had breakfast, but some only serve continental breakfasts and other include hard boiled eggs, waffles, cereal, etc.
In cases where a town had both motels; usually the price difference between the two was only $10 or so.
I have also spent nights a a few Americas Best Value Inn. The ones that I was at were like Super 8’s, but the buildings were older and therefore lower cost.
If anyone wants to send comments about the above-mentioned insane boot-licking policy to Morel 6’s corporate office;click here and check your e-mail browser: http://www.motel6.com/about/contact_us/

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