You shouldn’t expect much when you’re checking into a room at the local Motel 6, but at a bare minimum, you should expect to not be treated like a criminal. Guests at the motel chain’s Rhode Island location won’t get that luxury: their information is automatically delivered to the police.
The Providence Journal reports an unsettling agreement just signed by the Motel 6 in Warwick, R.I. and the local police force, following a spate of criminal acts by guests including child prostitution and an in-room meth lab. Per official policy, the company will now hand over to law enforcement a daily list of who’s staying at the Motel 6 so that they can be screened for outstanding warrants or other criminal history.
Guests will not be informed that their presence at the motel—the semi-comfortable night’s sleep they’re paying for—is being relayed to the police. They’ll have no chance to ask questions, and, if they’re uncomfortable with being surveilled like they’re on probation, take their business elsewhere. From the Journal report:
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.”
The Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU is already condemning the information sharing policy; in a statement provided to me by email, executive director Steven Brown says “a family on vacation should not be fearful that police may come knocking on the door in the middle of the night, courtesy of the motel, because Dad has an outstanding parking ticket he never paid.”
Brown added that the ACLU is “also deeply concerned about the precedent this agreement sets, for it can only embolden police to press for similar policies from other establishments,” and indeed the Journal says Motel 6 is considering a similar policy at another location that’s had problems with criminal activity. But it seems like, rather than this deeply creepy practice of preemptively treating all of its customers with suspicion, the motel’s manager could pay a little extra attention to his property to make sure a meth lab isn’t being operated inside. When a Taco Bell gets held up, it doesn’t start making customers get background checks the next week.
When asked for comment about privacy concerns and policy details, a Motel 6 PR chief Raiza Rehkoff told me “we are working on our corporate response to address this topic,” which I haven’t yet received.