Aditya Ghosh, India and South Asia head of Oyo said at a CII event that the company would be sharing information of guests staying at their hotels on a real-time basis, reports Business Standard. Oyo confirmed to MediaNama that a pilot is operational in Jaipur, and talks are ongoing with Telangana and Haryana. However, in a conversation with MediaNama, an Oyo spokesperson contested this and said that guest information will only be recorded in real-time, instead saying that information will be shared with the government/police only when after they produce an information order.

Its worth noting that Oyo’s hotels already have real-time documentation and storage of information, which is what is being referenced by the Oyo spokesperson. Digital records of guests is nothing new, what would be new is if Oyo was sharing this information real-time with the state/police. Real-time data-sharing, which is what Ghosh announced, is problematic. Note that Oyo claims to have 8,700 hotels in India.

Issues with real-time data sharing

  • It is disproportionate and unnecessary: Real-time data sharing would make available the details of every guest staying a hotel in India. This would imply that all guests are criminals who present a risk and need to be watched. The system hands over the data of every individual, instead of the data of the handful of people law enforcement would actually be looking for.
  • It may be the beginning of a trend: If a real-time data sharing system is put in place, it may be an indication for other online hotel aggregators or inter-state transport services/aggregators to directly share data with the government. Such a move by one of the larger hotel aggregators can encourage other players smaller players to follow suit.
  • It violates privacy: Real-time data sharing invades user privacy, plain and simple. Such a system would hand over personally identifiable information of every guest, without such information being demanded. It encourages a system which tracks citizens’ movements across states. As long as there is no legal reason for a service provider or law enforcement to demand users’ personal information, nobody should be asking for it or volunteering it.

Why I am uncomfortable with real-time data-sharing

For many people, hotel aggregators have made it easier to travel to any Tier I, Tier II or even Tier III city: this is because such services provide a wide range of hotels across budgets, and spread across all areas within a city, among other reasons. For me, there is also some reassurance in knowing that there is consistency of service across cities, and that customer care is available at all times. However, such simplistic data sharing with the government puts my privacy and sense of safety at risk. Being a single woman travelling to an outside city, this increases my level of vulnerability, as my personally identifiable data is shared directly and immediately with a third-party. Besides, the possibility that I may not want to do so is not considered, which means my consent will not asked for. In a nutshell, this makes me uncomfortable and invades my privacy.