State pauses plans for hotel guests e-database

Hotel corridor
Hotel corridor Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

The state has stalled plans to include information from all guests who stay in accommodation establishments in Estonia in a single police database. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications said an analysis must be carried out before proceeding with the idea.

Anyone who has stayed in a hotel or hostel knows a document must be shown to the administrator at the security desk at check-in. Visitor data is kept for two years, and if the police need it, they can investigate crimes related to the information. As a rule, this information is in the hotel's computer system and occasionally in high piles of paper.

Ele Russak, Adviser of the Citizenship and Migration Policy Department of the Ministry of the Interior, believes this solution is not very useful and said many other counties have already switched to electronic registration systems.

Estonian ministries have also been preparing an amendment to the law for several years which would allow for visitor information from all accommodation establishments to reach a national database.

Russak said: "At the moment, our draft is designed as automated data processing. This means that when registering a user of the accommodation service, this data is automatically checked against national and European Union databases."

For example, if a person is identified by police databases, his or her data will be checked by an official.

"If it turns out that there is an alien with a ban on entry in Estonia, then such a person will be detained and his or her deportation will be arranged. Similarly, the register can help in the case of a wanted person or a missing person," Russak explained.

Such a plan was to reach the state assembly already this autumn together with the draft amendment to the Tourism Act. A draft relaxing the rules for accommodation has just been submitted to the government, but there is no longer a single register of visitors.

The plan to set up such a register has been criticized by several accommodation companies over the years. Kati Kikas, adviser to the Internal Market Department of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, said the issue of registration was raised in the draft.

"We have not given up on this idea. We just need to do additional work with various parties before it can be taken forward. Enterprise Estonia is currently conducting a thorough analysis to find out what this database solution could be more precisely and what its exact cost is. In addition to the costs, there has been discussions over the years about whether and, to what extent, people's personal data is at risk," said Kikas. 

She confirmed the ministry already has solutions for these problems.

"There is nothing insurmountable. But we must bear in mind that any such new system or arrangement raises concerns and also fears. This awareness still needs to be raised."


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Editor: Helen Wright

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