Perspective: The Markey/Iger fight isn't about Disney -- it's about the future of RFID tracking
Here's one more piece of information that might provide some welcome perspective about MyMagic+ and Disney's MagicBands for guiding and tracking your day in a Disney theme park
In a few years, your cell phone is going to be a MagicBand.
Okay, a Lego iPhone might not have RFID technology. But in a few years, your real one might.
You see, a MagicBand contains a RFID (radio frequency identification) tag, and within the next few years, pretty much every techie expects cell phone manufacturers to begin installing RFID tags in cell phones in the United States. An RFID tag is a bit like a unique bar code that can transmit its data back to a reader located up to about 20 feet away. (The RFID tag gets its power from the reader, which limits its range.) There's related technology called NFC (near field communication) that works like RFID, but with a range of about four inches.
Right now, to use your cell phone as an admission ticket, boarding pass or payment system, you have to get it out and have its display scanned by a reader. With NFC, you simply have to place your phone next to the reader, and with RFID, you just have to walk within a few feet. That enables cell phones to become much more efficient and powerful tools for personal identification and transactions. With this technology, your cell phone finally can replace your wallet, becoming the single tool for managing everything you now carry around in that.
So why is Disney spending a billion bucks to create its own RFID system, when cell phones will provide this same functionality in just a few years? That's an excellent question, but let's remember that the big expense for Disney isn't in creating MagicBands (an RFID tag costs pennies to create) -- it's in building all that stuff that will do things in response to the presence of your RFID tag. By going ahead with MagicBands, Disney can be first to market with this functionality in its parks, while launching the system on its own timetable, rather than having to wait for Apple and everyone else in the mobile phone market to decide to start implementing RFID/NFC first.
But that implementation is coming. And it creates some real questions for the public about who's going to be reading our mobile-phone RFID tags, and what they're going to be doing with that information. Do really want every person and business you pass on the street to be able to see the content of your wallet?
Why pick on Disney, then? The company has a good reputation for customer service and protecting consumer data, and it ranks among the world's most trusted firms. As Disney theme park visitors, we already trust the company with gobs of information about us and what we're doing on our vacation.
Because this isn't about Disney. It's about Apple, Google, Verizon, AT&T and every other company that will one day engage in RFID-based consumer tracking, and letting them know that Congress will have some questions about the implementation of this technology. That's why Markey sent his letter to the press, instead of sending it privately to Disney days in advance.
By being the first big company to implement a wide-scale, RFID-based, consumer tracking system, Disney gets to be the company that Congress (the elected representative of the people, remember) asks to answer those questions. If Apple had installed RFID tags in the iPhone 5, and published the same information about privacy that Disney has about MyMagic+, you'd better believe that Apple would have gotten that letter, too.
RFID/NFC techology isn't going to help anyone if people are afraid to use it. That's why it's important -- for consumers and the businesses that invest in RFID/NFC -- to have some ground rules in place regarding the implementation of RFID reading that instill consumer confidence in these systems. Disney's already built that consumer trust. But other companies haven't -- and many don't deserve it.
By asking his questions, Rep. Ed Markey gave Disney CEO Bob Iger an opportunity to sell the public on the safety, convenience and power of RFID. Instead, Iger chose to attack Markey. By doing that, Iger missed a huge opportunity to sell his company's billion-dollar investment to the public. Perhaps that's why Disney PR reps are hustling now, making calls and sending emails to shift the focus back to Disney's privacy statements and explanations of the technology.
Many Disney fans are reflexively taking Iger's side (see the comments after my previous post). But I think it's important to see what's happening with MyMagic+ in context of a larger emerging public conversation over the use of RFID tracking. You might trust Disney. But do you trust every other company out there, too?
The other reason that Disney isn't waiting on this to show up in cell phones is because not everyone has a cell phone. Frequently, parents have phones, but not the kids, yet everyone needs an admission ticket. the other thing is, if you link your season pass to your phone and then sell the phone, does the buyer get your pass, too? They do if you forget to tell disney about the switch.
You should have said this sooner, sir!
But there is a HUGE difference between installing RFID in every cellphone - something that is becoming an essential piece of modern day living - and installing it in an optional wristband that you works only within a theme park environment. If Markey wanted to initiate a debate about RFID in society in general he could have done so but he didn't - he chose to attack Disney so I don't see this is the same debate.
Don't get why they're complaining about RFID at this point in time, it's not new technology, we could have discussed this 20 years ago. Many ski resorts use RFID cards instead of lift tickets now. That's pretty similar to a theme park RFID system and I'm sure it offers them some kind of tracking abilities. EZPass systems may be one of the most extensive uses of RFID and those can potentially be more invasive than whatever Disney is planning. In New York EZPass tags are scanned to track the speed of vehicles and give travel time estimates. We have to trust that data is only used for that purpose.
Robert writes: "By asking his questions, Rep. Ed Markey gave Disney CEO Bob Iger an opportunity to sell the public on the safety, convenience and power of RFID."
Robert: A couple of other site's forums are recommending your recent journalistic articles on Next Gen/Magic + as good reads. Links to TPI were provided.
I see where Robert has interviewed Rep. Markey in the past:
I'm a huge RFID skeptic. I wouldn't want Disney to track my activities. I think Iger ruined a good opportunities to educate and reassure people of the safety of the technology. Now, I'm not so sure I care for Disney. Maybe they do want to be Google and Apple in an even worse way.
Rep Markey has decided to run for U.S. senator when John Kerry becomes Secretary of State. I think a lot of this is probably politics for him to get his name in the paper.
Mr. Sirota, Please keep in mind that Rep. Markey has been pursuing federal regulation of the theme park industry for more than a decade. His efforts are not just aimed at Disney. His efforts have been opposed by Disney, Universal and Busch Gardens as well.
And (again) from Adweek: "While the MagicBand sounds like it can do everything except make coffee, it acts more as a pass key than portable computer. It doesn't collect nor hold personal information. Nor does it use GPS to track location. Like the plastic card keys used by hotels, if lost, the MagicBand cannot be linked to an individual."
"the MagicBand cannot be linked to an individual."
Anon Mouse: "If lost and another person carries it, all activities will be recorded as if done by the original person."
"It doesn't COLLECT nor hold personal information."
Ahhhhhhh ... thanks! Got it.
Here is more helpful information.
The whole tracking concept reminds me of Minority Report. Disney will be monitoring the movement of anyone wearing a wristband as the appear on different readers throughout the park.
I'm confident that Disney is at least complicit in the buying and selling of personal information since I see Disney banner ads (as well as Universal and Sea World) on almost every website I visit.
Banner ads are just advertising buys. I doubt they have anything to do with buying & selling personal information.
Big Brother is alive and well...
Web browsing history is information that is valuable facebook, Google,ect. If theme parks make their ads available to them than that makes them complicit as a third party.
The government is already tracking our internet and is poisoning our water supply with lead to keep us sick. This is just a case of Big Brother being threatened by Bigger Brother. We are all just serial numbers in the end.
'Mr. Sirota, Please keep in mind that Rep. Markey has been pursuing federal regulation of the theme park industry for more than a decade. His efforts are not just aimed at Disney. His efforts have been opposed by Disney, Universal and Busch Gardens as well.'
Just to add a little humor to this thread. Didn't Universal predict Next Gen My Magic+ when they opened the Terminator 2 attraction. Little did we suspect...
Mr Sirota writes (regarding my post to him): "How does this change any of what I said?"
Defend Disney at all costs..... oh, the sadness.
Yes, TH, it was a good talk! I hope you didn't take my tone to be too antagonistic. I think your perspective on Disney's motivations and the take that their PR team may be behind the approach makes a lot of sense. Politicians do things for a lot of reasons, too, and thanks for reminding me of that. What I was trying to get at was that whatever Markey's motivation, Washington politics can be an interesting mix with entertainment business. I don't view one or the other as perfect or terrible. I love a lot of what Disney does, but I definitely see them as a corporation out to make money, not necessarily to better humanity. I guess a part of me is glad that someone from outside of the Disney bubble asked a question about this. Some (definitely not all) of what Markey said brought up questions I had wondered about myself. With Facebook changing privacy policies seemingly at random (often to try to support new revenue streams by selling information shared under the pretense of it being private), I think some folks, myself included, have questions about the direction corporations go with the data they mine from us. If Disney is successful in this venture, it seems likely to be repeated elsewhere. So now may be a good time to have these conversations. I don't see the theme park industry suffering as a result. I would imagine Markey to be quite an annoyance if you are a Disney exec. To me, it's just funny to watch. Some on these comments seem offended that anyone would challenge Disney's moral compass (or perhaps it is a stronger distrust of Washington politics). I don't mind politicians getting involved if the end result is a better product for the consumer. If we disagree, I respect that. Either way I've enjoyed our chat.
NB writes: "Defend Disney at all costs..."
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