ACLU of Rhode Island executive director Steven Brown issued the following statement in response to recent news reports addressing a “change” in Motel 6’s policy of handing over its guest list to Warwick police:
“Although we are pleased to learn that Motel 6 will no longer routinely send its daily guest list to the Warwick Police Department, it remains unclear exactly how significant a change this actually is. According to comments from local law enforcement officials, it appears that the motel will instead simply permit Warwick police officers to view the guest list at the motel instead of sending it over to the police department. If so, this superficial change in policy only perpetuates the serious intrusion of privacy that Motel 6 guests are being subjected to. It certainly does not comport with comments attributed to Motel 6 corporate officials that they would no longer provide guest information to the police. The invasion of guests’ privacy is the same regardless of whether Motel 6 sends a list directly to the police or allows officers to examine it at the motel. And while police officials have suggested that criminal checks will be conducted only based on ‘reasonable suspicion,’ police officials will still be engaged in fishing expeditions if they are being provided access to the entire guest list whenever they choose.
“Both Motel 6 and the police department should formally clarify their statements and policies on this matter. Specifically, we believe the motel should be providing access to the guest list, and the police should be seeking it, only under very limited circumstances, either pursuant to a warrant or when needed to address specific criminal activity taking place at the establishment. For now, though, it still appears that Motel 6 views each person who walks through their doors not as guests, but as participants in a line-up. The public deserves more clarity as to whether the so-called change in policy is merely just motel window dressing.”