“I think consumers should continue to deal with hotels as they have in the past, knowing that almost all hotels are as concerned with customers’ privacy as are the customers,” he adds.
The problem may run deeper than the theft of credit card numbers, however.
The personally identifiable information in your guest profile, such as your home address, your license plate number and your date of birth, which is attached to your reservation, can end up in the hands of a third party that offers little or no warranties about how it will protect your data. “These kinds of areas are more worrisome than some huge Visa bill,” says hotel consultant Marion Roger. “Once your identity has been cloned, you can easily spend years and hundreds of thousands in legal and other fees.”
Apart from having the hotel industry tighten security, the best way to address data theft may be through changes in consumer law. A good starting point might be to tell consumers what information is being collected from them and passed along to third parties, says Hasbrouck.
Such privacy laws exist in Europe and Canada, but American business has resisted them. “Most travelers would be shocked to know how many other companies the hotel may have given [the information] to in the normal course of their business,” Hasbrouck says.
E-mail Christopher Elliott at email@example.com.