Are Disney MagicBand privacy concerns legit?
Are you worried about your privacy while wearing a MagicBand around the Walt Disney World Resort?
Photo courtesy Disney
Some visitors — and would-be visitors — have expressed concern. They're worried that Disney will be tracking their movements around the park, including what they do and what they buy throughout the day, and that Disney could use that information in ways that those visitors won't like.
MagicBands are the RFID-enabled bracelets that Disney's issuing to selected hotel guests as part of its new MyMagic+ system for managing Walt Disney World vacations. Visitors can use the MyMagic+ section of Disney's website or apps to make advance reservations for attractions, shows, and restaurants during their stay at Disney World, then use the MagicBands Disney supplies to access their hotel room, enter the theme parks or be admitted to their reserved ride, show, and meal times.
Visitors tap their MagicBands on their hotel room door or at checkpoints at park and attraction entrances. But the RFID chips in each MagicBand can be read from up to 30 feet away as well, as Kevin Yee detailed this week. Disney's already using that functionality to take on-ride pictures of MagicBand users on selected attractions. But inside sources have told us that the technology will play a part in creating interactive "moments" elsewhere in the parks, such as in Animal Kingdom's Avatar land, now in development.
Disney had planned to have expanded MyMagic+ to more visitors by now, but bugs and glitches as Disney attempts to scale up the system have slowed the roll-out. Yet it's clear from Disney's statements that it envisions more aggressive use of MagicBands in the future.
Let's face it: If Disney didn't track its customers while they were on company property, that would put Disney in the minority of large retail corporations. Smile for the security cameras next time you enter a store — they're there. And those discount cards you get from the grocery and other retailers? They're tracking every purchase you make.
Heck, when you carry a Visa or Mastercard credit card, you might as well be wearing a GPS device, as the card issuer is tracking the location of your payments, as well as their amounts. If you're carrying a cell phone, you are carrying a GPS device — one that cell carriers (and even the federal government) have the ability to track.
Want to go through life without being tracked? Use cash. Ditch the cell phone, the credit cards, and the discount "club" cards and carry nothing but cash. Walk up to the ticket booth and pay cash for a one-day, one-park ticket. As soon as you're through the front gate, throw that ticket away. Disney won't know who you are and won't be able to track anything you do.
Of course, that means you won't be able to use the Fastpass system for ride reservations. Nor will you be able to park-hop. Photopass pictures are out, too. But Disney will collect no data about your whereabouts and activities throughout the day, save for noting that one more (anonymous) person's ridden each ride you board, or that the company made those extra dollars for the stuff you've bought.
Most visitors, though, would like to have the opportunity to reserve no-wait ride times. Or to get on-ride photos automatically. (Or to get discounts when they go to the grocery store.) Such benefits are the price that companies pay to entice us to use systems that allow those companies to track us. Companies make that money back when their tracking efforts lead them to tailor offers or experiences that cause us to spend more money with those companies than we would have without those deals and discounts. In fact, Disney's facing lower-than-planned revenue in its theme park division now because MyMagic+ hasn't rolled out to the point where it's led to the big increases in guest spending that the company had anticipated.
If customers don't like the benefits of participating in a tracking system, they won't stick with them. Right now, the hassles of navigating MyMagic+ in beta testing have led many Disney hotel guests either to decline to participate, or to switch back to more traditional admission and room key cards, plus paper Fastpasses. But reports from in the parks suggest that's more due to people being unable to collect the benefits of MyMagic+ due to lost reservation times or dysfunctional MagicBands than to privacy concerns.
Let's not completely dismiss those concerns, though. While corporate tracking of consumer activity has become the norm in America, consumers ought to know more about who else will have access to that tracking data. We've raised concerns before about Disney cast members using MyMagic+ data as a "stalking app" to find out where individual guests they want to meet will be later in the day, then showing up off the clock to "just happen to bump into them." Disney should be making clear that anyone who tries something like that will be fired on the spot.
We've also wondered if Disney could use MagicBands to track alcohol sales more closely. Imagine getting cut off at Epcot because MyMagic+ has recorded that you've bought enough alcohol over the past couple hours to get an average-sized person to his legal limit. One of the challenges for tracking system is to ensure they don't feel creepy to the people who use them. While cutting off a drunk might be good practice (one that servers are supposed to be doing already), have a computer make that call automatically probably fails the "creepiness" test for many visitors.
Throw such concerns onto the pile of bugs, glitches, and challenges that Disney must overcome to make MyMagic+ scale to the level where it earns the company enough money to justify the billion-dollar investment. But if Disney fans and visitors object to the idea of Disney tracking their activity while on Disney property, well, they're going to have to do much more than refuse to wear a MagicBand to prevent Disney and other companies from tracking where they go and what they do.
Like you said. Privacy died a long long time ago.
I agree that privacy has gone away a long time ago. The concern I would have is Disney's ability to ensure the system is not compromised to outside sources. I do not mind if Disney uses the information to help make my stay there better however with all of the problems the system has it makes me wonder about the Internal Security of the systems and the ability for Hackers to gain access and use the data in criminal ways. While this is a concern with any computer systems the number of problems with this system makes it even more concerning. Will this stop be from going to Disney, using fast pass and things like that no. But I would never attach a payment method to it.
I don't really see how Disney could track you more with the Magic Band than they already could with your room key/park ticket/charge card/dining plan card.
Put me in the Anti-Magic Band/NGE group. This billion.5 dollar boondoggle of pure evil(at its core)will bite WDW's rear end at some point in the long-term and the ones that will suffer won't be the cm's. It will be us the fans and guests. This system doesn't solve the resort's present day core/main problem: Capacity-there aren't enough things to do at WDW's tired, stale parks not named MK.I didn't vote, but if there were was an option of "I wouldn't use MM+/Magic Bands anyway", I would've voted for that. First post on here and a thanks to the TPI crew for letting me join/participate here.
I love the Magic Band system. On a trip to Orlando this last October everyone in my party had to have their park entrance ticket, room key, and an Express Pass while at Universal. During our Disney stay we only needed our awesome Magic Bands. I'll take this ease and convenience over the privacy concerns any day. Plus the excitement level in my family over receiving the Magic Bands and using them was tremendous. My kids and I were constantly racing down the hallway of the Boardwalk to see who could open our room door first. : ) And when my daughter got hers before the trip she wore it to school and all the other Disneyphiles were very jealous as she was the first to get one.
Just because our privacy is being chipped away by other entities in this world doesn't mean that adding another to that list is not a big deal and that we shouldn't care. It IS a concern that we're being tracked by everyone else too.
Personally, privacy is a minor concern because you are in a highly public place anyway -- a theme park full of people. My concerns with MagicBand are that Disney sunk over a billion into this (instead of into rides and park infrastructure) and it still works badly. Plus, I loathe being limited to just three fast passes -- how can you park hop with this crappy new system??
Disney appear to be way too silent about security and data use for my liking.
I may be an idiot but I am still very perplexed by the thought that Magic bands are going to increase spending? Personally I am not going to buy any more or any less food, drinks or souvenirs because I am wearing a stupid RFID chip on a rubber bracelet. Some of the personalizations they have planned for the bands sound cool but overall the system is a money pit. As expensive as Disney and Universal are getting to visit, our vacations are going to become an "either or" thing as compared to an "and" thing of the past. How are we going to decide which one to visit? I can assure you that its not because one has an RFID wristband system. Its going to be which has the newest and best attractions. So while Disney spends millions and millions of dollars on a system that guests didn't ask for Universal is spending money on new bigger, better lands and attractions that people will love. Don't get me wrong. I love Disney, but if the money they have to spend to get this system corrected is taking away from their future attraction plans they are making a mistake of epic proportions.
If tracking me ultimately helps a company improve the product, and therefore, my experience...I say track away! I mean worrying about that is so 70's govt conspiracy whackiness. Then, like you said Robert, don't use a credit card...pitch a tent in the woods or sleep in your car...at some point you're "giving yourself away".
I'm a huge privacy advocate. I barely use Facebook and I refuse to use twitter. As much as I value my privacy, I really feel like the privacy concerns over MagicBand are ridiculous. Disney World must be one of the most family friendly places in the world, so what kind of privacy concerns in that environment are that important? It's not like you're being tracked through Las Vegas or something. Honestly, I wouldn't mind if Disney did more tracking and data mining on me if it meant that my vacation was more affordable. It would be interesting if Google ever got into the theme park business, completely free but they play you a targeted add while you're on the roller coaster. The only thing I hope is that they keep billing information separate from the rest of the MagicBand system. I definitely don't want personal and billing information stored on the band itself. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt there (for now), because it's in their best interest as well as ours to keep guests' information safe.
Anyone worried that Disney's Security is somehow better or worse than any other large company is wasting their time. Sony, Adobe, etc, etc have all been hacked. IF ther eis a way in someone will find it. Governments around the world are being hacked. The only way to have any privacy is to live in a cabin in the woods and hope no one knows you are there. Disney being able to secure your info is as effective as everyone else.
I do not think Privacy matters so much to folks…
@Trevor, from what I understand there isn't any information stored on the Magic Band itself other than a code specific to you...so the scanners read the code on your band, then pull up info from your account and give a yes or no back to the scanner. Not saying Disney's servers can't be hacked, but simply grabbing the code off the band won't help unless they also have access to the databases.
I'm all about privacy ... But, a company keeping track of you while you're on private property doesn't really constitute an invasion of privacy. Everyone already pretty much knows what you're doing at Disney. It's not like they know what books you're checking out of the library.
Magic bands are all about incremental revenue and improved service as a differentiator in the market. Universal has matched Disney in many of their historical advantages and they believe this will be the new separation. At $1.5B, that probably is as little as $75 additional revenue per unique visitor over 5 years. Not a huge goal. Just mining the data for highly targeted marketing will make that back. That's before they sell any data to the data aggregators.
I will say it again: How is the Magic Band any different than the Key to the World Card? Disney is not getting any new info about the guests that they already know.
I fully expect Disney to use the bands to track customers movements, etc. However, we have used the bands twice now(September and October, 2013)and despise the new advanced reservation fast passes. We found the limitation of but two per day in only one park very frustrating and the long wait times in line at rides without a fast pass to be irritating and we walked away more times than we could remember. To watch, waiting in line for an hour while hordes of fast passers rush by tends to make us wary of wanting to visit WDW anytime soon. We have been going for a week at a time twice per year for the past ten years, but this year's frustrations have about tested us to the limit. Disney is changing the whole tenor of the Walt Disney experience into something it was not. And, not for the better.
We have a Disney Visa, Disney Premium Annual Passes, and a Tables in Wonderland membership. There's not much more the Mouse can find out about me, but I'm fine with it.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.