Update 9/14/17: Motel 6 claims to have now discontinued the program of sending guest data to ICE. However, we still don’t know:
- What was the exact nature of the arrangement between Motel 6 and ICE Agents?
- Will they still hand over data when specifically requested without a warrant?
- Will they still be sharing data with other law enforcement agencies for the purposes or warrant sweeps or any other reason?
- What is the corporate policy regarding the privacy of guest data and law enforcement?
Update: 9/13/17: A Motel 6 in Arizona has been sending its guest registration data to ICE to facilitate immigration arrests.
“We send a report every morning to ICE — all the names of everybody that comes in,” one front-desk clerk explained. “Every morning at about 5 o’clock, we do the audit and we push a button and it sends it to ICE.”
It appears that Motel 6 management doesn’t just comply with specific law enforcement requests, but proactively sends data to be matched with law enforcement databases, be it for immigration status, warrants, or other reasons. If it is so simple that it is a one button push, does that suggest that this procedure is built into to their corporate guest services software?
If it is so simple that it is a one button push, does that suggest that this procedure is built into to their corporate guest services software? Motel 6 is owned by the Blackstone Group, whose chairman and CEO is Stephen Schwarzman, a strong supporter of President Trump.
Is the Motel 6 in Tewksbury turning over daily guest register information to the Tewksbury Police, without informing their paid guests?
Almost certainly this is the case. Troubling data from anecdotal reports as well as patterns from the Tewksbury police log suggests daily police sweeps resulting in frequent warrants served and warrant arrests at this location.
A news story report last year by Your Tewksbury Today makes the practice quite clear. They reported, “If you have an outstanding warrant and you decide to spend an overnight at the Tewksbury Motel 6, you can assume there is an excellent chance you’ll wind up in jail.”
Our analysis of the police log data from 2015 shows that of the 229 warrants served and warrant arrests that happened last year, 134 of these incidents happened at a [Main St] address. The Motel 6 is located at 95 Main Street in Tewksbury. Most of the incidents involve serving warrants to guests, but arrests of patrons are also a regular practice.
Almost 90% of the presumed Motel 6 warrant incidents were from the same patrol car designated [TEW 631] in the police logs, certainly suggesting that this is a daily or clearly routine part of the police rounds.
A Pattern of Civil Liberties Abuses by Motel 6
The Providence Journal reported in 2015 of an identical circumstance at the Warwick, RI Motel 6. The corporate management willingly agreed to volunteer privately held guest data on a continuous and ongoing basis, after a pattern of criminal activity was happening at that location.
Warwick police chief Stephen McCartney relented and agreed that having the daily hotel guest list entered into the police record and becoming public information created a troubling public records issue. However, they do still allow officers to “periodically” look at the guest register themselves, so it is not clear exactly how big a change in policy this really is.
While it is considered a common practice for hotels to give their visitor data to police when requested as part of a specific investigation, blanket scans of guest data searching for warrants are not thought to be commonplace.
But Victor Glover, the vice president of safety and security for G6 Hospitality, the parent company of Motel 6, appears to take a different view. He thinks it is fine to not tell their guests that their data is routinely and regularly passed on to law enforcement to be checked over.
The Answer for Law & Order Types
Wait a minute, you may say, “Doesn’t the fact that there are so many people passing through this motel who are demonstrably fugitives suggest that the police are right to sweep this place daily?”
No, that should not be sufficient in a free society. When you are on vacation, you should have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
If you aren’t committing a crime or you aren’t a subject of an active investigation, you have the right to be left alone. You shouldn’t have to wonder if a private company is profiling you and giving the guest data you have provided them to the government to fish for information.
You can bet that if there was a big sign in the lobby warning that this was their policy, a lot of people might cancel their bookings.
But Motel 6 doesn’t want to hurt their business. And this way they know that when someone gets hauled away on a warrant, at least they’ve already run their credit card and collected the fee for their stay.
You also have to wonder who owns this data? Where is it collected, and how long is stored? Should the government be keeping records of what hotels citizens stayed at any time, just in case they want to look through it later?
The Issue is Consent (and fairness)
Just because you are on a budget doesn’t mean you agree to be part of a Mass government surveillance data sweep.
You can bet that guests at the Four Seasons do not ever have to wonder if the concierge is uploading the guest list into a police database every night.
It’s easier than you think to have an outstanding warrant in your name.
We get calls quite often from people who find out there is a warrant for their arrest that they never knew about. Most of the time it pops up when they move out of state and try to get a driver’s license renewed in another state, but are informed that it can’t be renewed until they deal with the Massachusetts warrant issue.
Most of the time it pops up when they move out of state and try to get a driver’s license renewed in another state, but are informed that it can’t be renewed until they deal with the Massachusetts warrant issue.
It could be for something as minor as an outstanding fine you didn’t pay.
But now thanks to this creepy alliance between discount motel chains and the police state, a budget vacation could result in you spending a few nights in jail over a minor incident or an unpaid debt of a few hundred bucks. This absolutely happens. Cases like this do show up in the Lowell District Court that are the clear result of police overreach.
We will continue to monitor this issue as we hear it, but let us know if you have an issue with an open warrant, fair or unfair.