Blacklists appear to be the rage these days. With the ease of storing and sharing personal information — coupled with lax privacy law restrictions on such activities — companies can increasingly create blacklists of bad customers. In this article from the Ottawa Citizen [link no longer available], hotels in Australia and Canada (and soon the United States) are signing up for a service that compiles a blacklist against “bad” hotel guests:
Blacklisting everyone from the whisky-swilling scoundrels whose partying sabotaged your last vacation to the louts who channel Pink Floyd by dismantling their rooms, the new Australian database — which is expected to expand to Canada and the U.S. by year’s end — helps prevent unsavoury individuals from obtaining short-term accommodations.
“People are becoming less considerate of the space they’re staying in,” says Josh Ginty, project manager of the Guests Behaving Badly registry.
“What we hope to do is proactively advertise to those people … that their details will be recorded if they breach house rules. That in itself is often a strong enough deterrent.”
Accessible only to operators of hotels, motels and vacation homes, the membership-based registry tracks five levels of guest misconduct. These range from “lower-level blatant disregard” for regulations, such as smoking in non-smoking rooms or swimming in the pool after hours (several staff warnings must be ignored before the activity is reported on the registry) to higher-level infractions such as non-payment of the hotel bill, assault or vandalism.
“If you steal a couple of towels, we’re interested in tracking that,” says Mr. Ginty. “But it doesn’t compare to someone who has verbally or physically abused the night manager.”
More than 1,000 properties have signed up for the service since it launched in December 2006. Expansion to other continents is planned to begin in six months, depending on how easily the database can be adapted to each country’s privacy laws.
Customers have the ability to rate hotels with websites such as TripAdvisor.com. So why shouldn’t hotels be able to rate customers?
I don’t view the situations as symmetrical. Customers have long been spreading their opinions about hotels and other businesses — this is how the market produces good products and services. Word about bad hotels gets out and it leads to less business, thus creating an incentive for hotels to improve their service. But what happens when a similar process works against customers? True, some hotel guests are obnoxious and destructive, but do we really want to live in a country where people find themselves routinely blacklisted from various hotels and other businesses (stores, etc.)? In a Seinfeld episode, Elaine once found herself on a blacklist by doctors for being a bad patient. Perhaps this is the trend of the future. I sure hope not.
Originally Posted at Concurring Opinions
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This post was authored by Professor Daniel J. Solove, who through TeachPrivacy develops computer-based privacy training, data security training, HIPAA training, and many other forms of awareness training on privacy and security topics. Professor Solove also posts at his blog at LinkedIn. His blog has more than 1 million followers.