Czechia's plan to store hotel guests' personal data sparks privacy concerns

The government argues that it is simply digitizing the current protocol of storing guests' personal information, but critics voice security concerns. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 26.01.2024 14:15:00 (updated on 26.01.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

Czechia is preparing a new law requiring all accommodation providers (such as hotels and guesthouses) to collect and store personal information about their guests in a centralized, electronic database. This also applies to rooms rented on popular sites Airbnb and Booking. The plan, however, has provoked some security and privacy fears.

A shift online for ease and convenience

In its digitization drive, Deputy Prime Minister for Digitization Ivan Bartoš has proposed the creation of a new electronic register called e-Turista, which would collect data such as names, dates of birth, residential addresses, ID numbers, and the purpose of stay for all guests. This information would then be accessible to various authorities, including financial authorities, the Czech Statistical Office, and the government itself.

At present, all accommodation providers are obliged to collect their guests’ personal information – however, this can be (and often is) stored in a physical book, Czech media outlet iRozhlas describes.

Government denies security risks

The draft law, which is expected to be discussed by parliament this year, has sparked concerns about privacy and surveillance in case of data breaches – compounded by the fact that multiple entities will be able to view the data. Detractors of the plan say that personal information, including the location of where someone is staying and who with, could be accessed and misused.

The government, however, refutes any security concerns. According to spokesperson for the Ministry of Regional Development Veronika Hešíková, the e-Turista register does not actually introduce anything new and will only digitize the current system of logging guests’ details.

Bartoš also claims that the register will be used for statistical purposes and will be completely anonymous. Hešíková explains: "Although it will contain specific personal data, it will not be possible to connect it to a specific room – therefore it will not be possible to find out who else the person was staying with." 

The draft law also includes a provision that would make it illegal for accommodation providers to host guests without proof of identity, punishable by a fine of up to CZK 100,000. 

Expected to come next year

Despite security and privacy concerns, the Czech Ministry of Regional Development is pushing for the implementation of the e-Turista register, citing the need to comply with a forthcoming European regulation on the registration of short-term accommodation. However, the law only mentions the collection of information about accommodation providers – not their guests.

The e-Turista register is expected to be fully implemented by 2025, with the database being ready this year in order for the Czech Republic to receive European funds from the National Recovery Plan. The state claims that this will streamline the process of logging guests and increase efficiency, but it remains to be seen how this new database will impact on people's privacy.

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