ITB 2023 Special Reporting
Enjoying Anonymity and Privacy for Hotel Guests is Becoming Almost Impossible.
By Joseph Fischer
Saturday, 27th July 2013
Exclusive Feature: 'Big Brother Is Watching You' is turning into reality is some hotels; is this something our guests wish for?

In a most recent articles in Vogue magazine and the Sunday Times a new system to 'spot a VIP' in luxury retail businesses and hotels was featured.

According to the article, the system, developed by a Cambridge based company called NEC IT Solutions is making use of facial recognition technology, not much different then systems that are used for security purposes in airports, Train stations, Busy streets, Banks, Casinos and other sensitive areas.

According to the article, the system is already being used in high end designer boutiques as well as in unnamed designer boutique hotels in the UK, the US and the Far East.

The first question that comes to my mind is: We start with VIP's but who will draw the line?

The same system could be used for many other purposes such as:
  • Recognition of 'Black listed' guests
  • Recognition of 'Hotel critics' and reporters
  • Problematic 'Trip Advisor' reviewers
  • Mystery Guests from AAA or other classification organizations
These are only a few examples that the system could be used for. There are clearly some advantages in having such a system but one of the key questions that comes to my mind is what about our guest's privacy?

In many hotels, especially De-Luxe hotels, privacy is very important. We take pride of keeping our guest names confidential, not providing guest's room number. We take do take pride in providing our guest anonymity.

In many cases those we call our VIP guests want to keep a 'low profile' and avoid being recognized.

In the "Sunday Times" article, the VP of NEC IT Solutions, Mr. Chris De Silva is quoted saying that his company has addressed privacy concerns and found that most high-profile customers would be "quite happy to have their information available because they want a quicker service, a better-tailored service or a more personally tailored service". Is that so?

How about a rather significant market segment is some hotels
'Day use'? - Would a potential guest checking in for a few hours of romance, be willing to give up his or hers privacy?

Just think about the potential misuse of such a system? For example, a hacker with remote access to the hotel's system could log in to the face recognition part, implant a face he or she are looking for and get the information on-line.

Don't take me wrong, I am all for providing our guests security and recognition but I have serious concerns about future use of such systems in hotels.

What is your view?

This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.

Joseph - Yossi - Fischer the CEO of Vision Hospitality & Travel - international lodging & Travel Solutions
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