Motel 6 To Pay Out Another $12 Million For Handing Guest Info To ICE

from the going-to-make-it-tough-to-pay-the-light-bill dept

A handful of Motel 6 owners and operators suddenly decided the best use of their guest info was as fodder for law enforcement agencies. In Connecticut, a Motel 6 just decided to start faxing its guest list over to the local cop shop every night. After this questionable practice was made public, the PD announced it never asked for this info and was going to route it right into the shredder going forward.

Other Motel 6 owners decided ICE needed to know about every suspected illegal immigrant being housed overnight at their franchises. Using a highly-technical process that narrowed forwarded guest lists to those with foreign-sounding surnames, Motel 6 owners sicced ICE on paying customers in an effort to… I don't know… earn good citizenship awards or something.

It may have netted ICE a few busts and warmed the cockles of meathead managers who had discovered a way to increase occupancy turnover rates with the federal government's help, but it also netted Motel 6 a handful of lawsuits.

Last November, Motel 6 agreed to pay a $7.6 million settlement for sending guest lists to ICE offices in Arizona. NPR reports the chain is now about $20 million lighter, thanks to a similar settlement being reached in Washington.

The hotel chain Motel 6 has agreed to pay $12 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the state of Washington after several locations gave information on thousands of guests to Immigration and Customs Enforcement without warrants.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Thursday that Motel 6 shared the information of about 80,000 guests in the state from 2015 to 2017.

The chain also swore [PDF] it would never allow its franchisees and operators to deputize themselves as Lil' ICE Helpers, and would tell them to keep their guest lists to themselves.

Defendants shall maintain a policy ("The Policy") that they will not share 24 guest information with law enforcement, including ICE agents, without a judicially enforceable warrant or subpoena, except where there is a credible reason to believe that a guest, employee, or other individual is in imminent danger.

[...]

Defendants will train and require their employees not to provide guest information in response to any request, warrant, or subpoena from law enforcement, including DHS/ICE agents, without first obtaining authorization and directions from Defendants' legal department or other trained individual(s) designated by Defendants.

$10 million of the settlement will be going directly to Motel 6 guests whose information was given to ICE, whether or not they actually had to suffer through any interactions with the overzealous agency. Hopefully, the substantial settlements will encourage Motel 6 to keep better tabs on the activities of its site operators -- some of which apparently believe they're operating ICE honeypots rather than short-term housing for travelers.

Filed Under: guest info, ice
Companies: motel 6


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2019 @ 3:35pm

    So does this mean Motel 6 won't be leaving the light on for law enforcement any more?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2019 @ 4:04pm

      Re:

      Hope springs eternal...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      btr1701 (profile), 17 Apr 2019 @ 12:11pm

      Re:

      So does this mean Motel 6 won't be leaving the light on for law enforcement any more?

      Well, maybe a little night light:

      Defendants will train and require their employees not to provide guest information in response to any request, warrant, or subpoena from law enforcement, including DHS/ICE agents, without first obtaining authorization and directions from Defendants' legal department.

      That's ridiculous. If a judge commands a hotel employee, via a valid warrant based on probable cause, to release guest information, that employee doesn't get to say, "Yeah, I'll get back to you on that once I run this through the bureaucracy at headquarters." The answer from the judge is likely to be, "If we have to wait, you'll sit in a cell for contempt while we do it."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 4:55pm

        Re: Re:

        If a judge commands a hotel employee, via a valid warrant

        How does some low-level employee know whether it's valid, without contacting a lawyer?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 7:19pm

          They don't. That's why issuing a false or otherwise invalid warrant is a felony.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          btr1701 (profile), 18 Apr 2019 @ 11:15am

          Re: Re: Re:

          That's irrelevant. If the lawyers at corporate HQ want to challenge it, they can do it after the fact. I'm not even sure why they'd care, however, since the mere existence of the warrant covers the company legally. The only reason they were in trouble in the first place is that they were giving up customer info to the police without a warrant or subpoena. If they receive a warrant for the info, they have to obey, so they are absolved of liability for handing over the info.

          Bottom line: corporate policy isn't superior to a court order.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2019 @ 4:08pm

    Now the only question is what they consider "guest information"....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Qwertygiy, 16 Apr 2019 @ 6:16pm

      I believe that consists of anything personally identifiable which is not publicly connected to the guest's stay. Name, telephone number, address, email would all count, because there would be no way to simply "observe" them without going through Motel 6.

      But license plate number, make and model of car, hair or eye color, etc. might be able to be weaseled around because you could just watch the parking lot instead and figure it out that way.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2019 @ 4:54pm

    Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2019 @ 6:07pm

    Remember when blue said that ICE was in the right and Motel 6 was in the clear and Masnick was mistaken?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Apr 2019 @ 6:31pm

    As a green man once asked, 'Okay, but why though?'

    Using a highly-technical process that narrowed forwarded guest lists to those with foreign-sounding surnames, Motel 6 owners sicced ICE on paying customers in an effort to… I don't know… earn good citizenship awards or something.

    What's got me scratching my head is wondering what was running through the heads of the idiots who decided that the best use of their position was to start sending that data to ICE/police in the first place. Were they getting kickbacks, did they think they would get kickbacks, or did they just decide that those people with funny names just must have been guilty of something?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2019 @ 7:04pm

      Re: As a green man once asked, 'Okay, but why though?'

      Absolutely they were getting kickbacks. There's no way these hotel managers decided it was suddenly a good idea to do this without SOME agent coming by and offering some sweet sweet cash/benefits on the side for this information.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2019 @ 7:30pm

        Re: Re: As a green man once asked, 'Okay, but why though?'

        Could have been they just looked the other way at certain things. That would be simplest.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 9:48am

        Re: Re: As a green man once asked, 'Okay, but why though?'

        Unfortunately racist cultists willing to serve "the cause" aren't uncommon these days.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Krolis (profile), 16 Apr 2019 @ 7:19pm

    So much for the "see something, say something" mantra

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2019 @ 7:44pm

      If "seeing something" is "seeing a dude who looks Mexican" and "saying something" is "telling the feds you saw a dude who looks Mexican", yeah, good riddance to it. Last I checked, appearing Hispanic wasn't a crime, and neither was having a Hispanic name.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2019 @ 7:47pm

        Re:

        At least his profile pic is accurate.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        bob, 16 Apr 2019 @ 10:13pm

        Re:

        But the orange idiot said Mexicans are all bad people. The POTUS would never tell lies or instruct people to break laws. Nor would the government ever disregard people's rights....

        Yep, good riddance to telling people to act like Gestapo.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 3:14am

    Substantial Settlements

    "...the substantial settlements will encourage Motel 6 to keep better tabs on the activities of its site operators..."

    $125 per victim ($10 million spread over 80,000 guests) is "substantial"? That's about two nights' rental at a Motel 6 in Washington state.

    How's about we jack that up by a factor of ten for those not "inconvenienced" (read, "detained," "interrogated," "arrested") by police or ICE and a factor of 100 for those who were "inconvenienced." It's not that I think even that's enough compensation, but it at least starts to approximate "substantial" - about half a years' earnings instead of less than 5% - for a concern such as Motel 6.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 8:24am

      Re: Substantial Settlements

      Let's be clear, fining Motel 6 is not the same as fining the local franchise operators. Motel 6 is a franchise, not a police agency. They can set policies, but they cannot predict offenses in advance. They can't know what local franchised operators will do ahead of time. The best they can legally do is establish policy, and disenfranchise any caught violating it, and/or sue.

      Punishing the corporation doesn't punish the individuals that took it upon themselves to do wrong. It's a different scenario from that of punishing Facebook with big fines because Zuckerberg played fast and loose with data. Facebook isn't a franchise, it's a huge corporation with the lead offender also acting as CEO.

      Doing the same to Motel 6 doesn't really impact the franchised operators at all. So now, you can only hope that Motel 6 "passes on" the fines to those operators that it knows about.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 10:31am

        Re: Re: Substantial Settlements

        Let me be clear - NO. This a company problem, not simply an issue of a few cowboy franchisees.

        I've worked for multiple service sector, financial services, insurance, and pharmaceutical companies/corporations. In each instance the proper care and feeding of client information was a fundament taught to everyone down to the level of phone clerk. Between state regulation, HIPAA for patients, various FTC rules and guidelines for just plain everybody, there is zero excuse for a modern company NOT to know that consumer privacy must be trained into staff, who represent their brand - that entirely includes franchisees and their underlings.

        Motel 6, as a franchiser, was negligent, their performance falling somewhere on the nonfeasance-to-misfeasance spectrum.

        Make 'em pay - make it sting, 'til they can honestly say, "I'm learnding."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 5:42am

    motel 6

    we'll leave the light on for ya

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    lucidrenegade (profile), 17 Apr 2019 @ 9:34am

    Maybe they were trying to get a Medal of Freedom from Trump? He's giving one to Tiger Woods for winning a golf tournament, so why not?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 9:43am

    Loopholes

    Defendants shall maintain a policy ("The Policy") that they will not share 24 guest information with law enforcement, including ICE agents, without a judicially enforceable warrant or subpoena, except where there is a credible reason to believe that a guest, employee, or other individual is in imminent danger.
    [...]
    Defendants will train and require their employees not to provide guest information in response to any request, warrant, or subpoena from law enforcement, including DHS/ICE agents, without first obtaining authorization and directions from Defendants' legal department or other trained individual(s) designated by Defendants.

    There's an obvious loophole in the above: they can share all guest information with agencies that haven't requested it when any person is in danger. This danger doesn't have to relate to the guests whose information is being shared, or even to Motel 6.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mfp, 17 Apr 2019 @ 11:17am

    Motel6 is deadly

    Motel6 is repeatedly named the worst popular hotel chain in the US based on massive crime, bedbugs, roaches… And it’s a target destination if human traffickers and sex predators. This from the American customer satisfaction index. See: https://www.motel6crimereports.com/blog/motel-6-the-one-stop-shop-for-sex-offenders-and-sex-workers

    Also lie when they say their “pet friendly.” Pet friendly does not mean pet safe. Dogs have been killed and gone missing at alarming rates at Motel 6. https://www.motel6crimereports.com/blog/motel6petfriendly

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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