You may wonder whether hotels can disclose some private information about their guests to the police. And the question is not that simple to answer. At first, we need to understand that all countries may have different rules. Even some states may have different rules according to this. Also, it all depends on why the police ask for some information.
We’ll be speaking mainly about the US. The law here is not always rationally explainable. But when it comes to the police, it’s very similar to the rules in most European countries. But please bear in mind that if you go to Asia or Africa, you shouldn’t expect these rules to work there. These parts of the world will definitely have their own rules and procedures.
Here’s what we are going to talk about today:
- Private information disclosure – when is it possible for hotels?
- Do hotels keep track of guests?
- Can you live in a hotel under someone else’s name?
- Can you sue a hotel for giving out your personal information to the police?
Let’s get started!
Rules of personal information disclosure for hotels
The question of giving out any personal information is not that simple. What do we understand by “personal information”? Who asks for it? Why do these people want to know your personal details? All of these questions may change the way your hotel deals with the information. Then, we should also understand what kinds of information your hotel stores.
You may have noticed that hotels don’t always ask you to show your ID or any other document. You will book your hotel room with a credit card and this is enough for them to see if you fit the age limitations or any other frames. Sometimes, hotels will still ask to see your ID just because they need to know your age.
So, the hotel reception will actually have these types of data about you:
- Your name and surname. In some cases, they will just get them from a credit card booking, or even just from your words without looking at your ID. Though, many hotels will still demand your ID card before they let you in.
- Your credit card details. In most cases, booking is completed with an online service using a credit card. In this case, your hotel will have the credit card number and some other details that the banking services deliver to sellers.
- The parking lot number where you drop your car. If the hotel has a parking place, they will write the number of a parking lot just because they are required to know this information.
- All other information that you will volunteer to give them in a guest form. Many hotels will give you a certain form to fill in before you can check in. Some hotels will also gather data online before you book a room.
Most of this information will not be used by your hotel. If you volunteer to give them your phone number or an e-mail address, you will most likely get tons of adverts from them. But they will not usually give out this information to anyone. But the cases may differ, of course.
How police can get the data from the hotel?
All hotels in the US have to give a certain set of personal details to any police officer. For example, a receptionist will have to tell a police officer which room the guest is in.
A simple example: the police are patrolling the area when their automatic license plate scanner notices that a stolen vehicle is standing near a motel. The police officers will come to the motel receptionist and will require information about the guest. Mainly, they will want to know the room where the guest is now.
Though, we may think of a lot of problems in this case:
- the police cannot get any private details such as phone number, credit card number, etc., they can only get the name and the room number;
- for going into the room, the police officers will need a warrant, otherwise, they will break the law and any court will justify a person whatever happens next;
- for taking more personal details, the police will also need to have a warrant, without this they can’t make the hotel receptionist reveal more information;
- if they have a warrant, the hotel receptionist may use a master key to let them walk into the room and conduct thorough research.
As you see, even if a police officer asks to give him or her a phone number, address, or credit card number of a suspect, he or she should have a warrant. Without that, a hotel worker will not disclose any further information but the room number of a guest.
Of course, in some states, this differs and police officers have much more rights. But in most cases, we see that the police will come without a warrant, so they cannot even walk into your room or get your credit card number.
Can you stay in a hotel under someone else’s name?
Now, you may wonder whether a hotel will allow you to check in if your name is not included in the reservation documents. This is only possible with a hotel that doesn’t ask guests to show their ID cards. We predict that over 90% of hotels now ask guests to show their IDs. So this is barely possible to live under someone else’s name.
But small hotels, apartments, guesthouses will most likely let you check in even if the booking was made by someone else. You will only need to call and warn about this. If a totally different person comes without warning, of course, a hotel will not let you check in. If it happened, the entire booking system would turn into chaos.
So, never try to stay in a chain hotel or in any big hotel under someone else’s name. This doesn’t break the law, but it reduces your confidence when you are in some other city or country. You may just not be allowed to check in.
Can you sue a hotel for disclosure of your personal details?
You can sue a hotel and you will most likely win in court. Hotels are not allowed to disclose your information. They can give out some details (but not all) to the police. They also have to give out all the details they have if a police officer has a warrant.
So, your actions in case you think that the hotel broke the law are as follows:
- find a lawyer who is ready to go to court with this;
- through your lawyer, inform the hotel that you are going to go to the court;
- with your lawyer, prepare documents for the court;
- be very specific and tell the lawyer what exactly personal details were given out;
- go to the court and repeat everything you told to your lawyer;
- wait until the judge comes up with the decision.
In most cases, you can easily win. But if a police officer had a warrant, things wouldn’t not be so good for you. In this case, it will depend on why the police wanted to see you. And the court will obviously take into account the actions of the police.
We don’t recommend breaking the law and tricking with hotels like trying to live under someone else’s name. There are numerous ways to hide your name when you are traveling, but most of them are illegal or half-legal and have nothing to do with hotels. So, better stick to the rules and laws of the country or state you are in. Also, know your rights so that no one could ever trick you and get your personal information.
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