Most hotels offer free WiFi to their patrons, and often computer rooms with desktops available to guests who need internet access. Generally speaking, hotel staff and management don't read any of the emails guests read or send when they're using the hotel internet, but the hotel's server usually has a log file that lists every connection the server makes for its users while they browse using its network. When you find yourself using a hotel's internet services, there are steps you can take to help protect your privacy while doing so.

Hotel Server Functions

Hotel servers are like all others in that they accumulate a log file of all client transactions. Your surfing patterns are listed in that file. This includes the time you logged in and out, your name or ID number which is assigned by the server, and your room number. Whether or not you delete your personal log on your browser is irrelevant to the server. All your entries are logged into the server database.

Hotel Security Protocols

Hotels in the United States do not have the authority to view or save emails sent through their servers. The exception to that rule is if the federal government has a warrant to accumulate and view your email and/or your online activity. The process required for the authorities to obtain permission to examine the server entries made from your room is complex. Unless you are under criminal indictment or suspected of being a threat to the Homeland, the government is not allowed to view your surfing log file without a warrant or probable cause. Since these server log files are deleted on a regular basis, your surfing history is not available to prying eyes for a lengthy period of time. However, a hotel employee with the capability to log into the hotel server can view the log file data that lists your web browsing history.

Hotel Privacy Standards

All major hotel chains in the United States take steps to guard their server data from most employees. Access to server data is available only to the IT personnel and closely protected by several layers of password security, anti-virus software and other outside threat mitigation devices. These steps are taken for their benefit as well as for their guests. Nevertheless, a skilled and determined computer hacker could possibly break into the hotel’s server network and steal data.

What You Can Do

If you are concerned about your privacy there are measures you can take to insure that the hotel you are visiting cannot track your Internet usage. Subscribe to any one of several virtual private networks that disguise your IP address and eliminate all but the most sophisticated systems from seeing where you surf. They also encrypt your emails to make it nearly impossible to read or find the sender or receiver. Recent encryption algorithms instituted by Apple for their latest iPhone make it nearly impossible for even the NSA to view your online data.