The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island today blasted an agreement reached between Warwick police and a local Motel 6 to share the motel’s daily guest list of patrons, and to do so without notifying patrons. The ACLU called the agreement an invasion of guests’ privacy that sets a troubling precedent. ACLU of Rhode Island executive director Steven Brown said of the agreement:

“When visitors go to a hotel for the night, they expect to be treated like guests, not potential criminals. Yet the blanket agreement between the Warwick police and the motel – sharing the guest list of all of its patrons on a daily basis – is hardly the sort of ‘hospitality’ one anticipates from such an establishment. 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.

“Although Motel 6’s national policy claims to ‘recognize the importance’ of protecting the privacy of guest information, this agreement makes a mockery of that pretense. It adds insult to injury that the motel does not even plan to make customers aware that it is sharing guest information with the police. Motel officials should feel some obligation to let patrons know that a courtesy police check comes with the mint on the pillow.

“There are many ways to deal with illegal activities at the motel without engaging in such a wholesale invasion of patrons’ privacy. In the absence of some suspicion of wrongdoing, a person on vacation should not expect their private information to be shared with the government in this way. We are also deeply concerned about the precedent this agreement sets, for it can only embolden police to press for similar policies from other establishments.

“The ACLU urges that this sharing policy be immediately rescinded. At the very least, the motel should fess up to its customers as to exactly what it is doing so they can make an informed choice as to whether this is the hospitality they were looking for. When Motel 6 says in its ads that they’ll ‘leave the light on for you,’ most people probably don’t realize they’re talking about the light of a police siren.”