More Theme Parks Turn to Facial Recognition Tech

March 24, 2021, 1:36 PM · The Walt Disney World Resort is testing the use of facial recognition for theme park admission, as Abu Dhabi's Yas Island moves to full implementation of the technology at its parks.

In Orlando, Disney is looking to facial recognition as a touchless replacement for its biometric finger scans. Guests visiting the Magic Kingdom can opt to use a new facial recognition test lane when entering the park. Instead of using the old finger scans, a face scan will be associated with the user's Magic Band, mobile app, or ticket card. Guests are to continue wearing their Covid face masks, but must remove any hats or sunglasses when facing the camera.

"At Walt Disney World Resort, we’re always looking for innovative and convenient ways to improve our Guests’ experience - especially as we navigate the impact of Covid-19," a Disney statement said. The test is scheduled to last for the next month.

To see what full implementation of facial recognition at a theme park resort will look like, check out Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, which has rolled out its new FacePass system, which links facial recognition to the resort's app for theme park admission and retail and dining payments.

"We are thrilled to be pioneering the adoption of the FacePass technology within the regional leisure and entertainment industry, and delivering on our promise of creating a world-class wall-less destination using the latest technology," Mohamed Abdalla Al Zaabi, CEO of Yas Island owner Miral, said. "Yas Island theme parks will be the first in the region to implement complete contactless access and payment solutions. This cutting-edge functionality is in line with our digital transformation strategy, and a testament to achieving our vision of positioning Yas Island as a top global destination for entertainment, leisure and business."

Yas Island is the home to the Theme Park Insider Award-winning Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, as well as Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and the upcoming SeaWorld Abu Dhabi. Miral said that FacePass will roll out in phases, eventually being integrated into all Yas Island assets, which also include the Yas Waterworld water park, Yas Marina Circuit Formula 1 race track and Yas Mall, plus several hotels and other recreation facilities.

* * *
We wanted you to read this article before we make our newsletter pitch, unlike so many other websites. If you appreciate that - and our approach to covering theme park news - please sign up for our free, twice-a-week email newsletter. Thank you.

Replies (11)

March 24, 2021 at 2:42 PM

I don't understand the need for this tech. If parks are more or less forcing guests to use their smart phones to enter and navigate the resorts, why is facial recognition (especially advanced enough to recognize people wearing face masks) necessary?

Given the advances in NFCs in phones (and wearables), why invest all of this time and money to create an ID system that existing tech can already do, especially since Disney spent over $1 billion on creating an NFC environment throughout WDW with MagicBand?

March 24, 2021 at 4:06 PM

I never understood these facial technologies for parks, especially for pass holders. I’ve seen some Disneyland Passholders when their pass is scanned, it showcases them as a toddler while the AP is clearly a teenager.

March 24, 2021 at 5:47 PM

The reason for this tech, at least for Disney, is as replacement for the finger scanners which were able to detect massive amounts of theft every year while also hopping aboard the worldwide "touchless" experience bandwagon. Right now anybody can use anybody else's ticket, and the famed "192 tickets," to get into the park.

March 24, 2021 at 5:08 PM

Last time I visited Disneyland on a multi-day pass, they took a photo of me so they could see that it was me next time (re-selling of partially-used passes is a problem). I had no problem with that. Vegas has used facial recognition for a long time. So I have no beef with this.

March 25, 2021 at 7:50 AM

I get the reasoning for needing to associate ticket media with specific people, but that can be done through smart phone technology just as easily as Disney storing biometric/facial recognition data. When Disney started using biometric data, NFCs were not widespread, so using biometric data (fingerprint) was a logical method to avoid fraud.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have an issue with facial recognition, and don't see it as the invasion of privacy that some do. My main criticism is regarding Disney's investment in the technology and why they are wasting money on this when they just blew over $1 billion on creating an NFC environment throughout WDW (MagicBand). NFCs can verify identify just as easily as a facial recognition system (just like keycards at secure offices that double as employee IDs). Yes, you can more easily hand someone else your device or credentials than you can your face, but I think this initiative is behind the times for its intended purpose, and undermines the massive investment Disney has already made in NFCs and the expectation from guests to use MagicBand or their smart phone when visiting Disney properties.

March 25, 2021 at 9:00 AM


Debbie Downer here...

Theme Parks do not inherently have a need for facial recognition.
Let's recap: First they have your fingerprint on file, now they will have facial recognition tied to you..

I hope you do realize there will be a time when law enforcement (FBI CIA Homeland security) who may have a need to access these records...
Example - we just had two mass shootings where they might want to track the past movements of said individuals...


I have no problems and have some faith our Gov't here in the good old USA but do you trust other countries?


What will Russia or China do with said Data?
What if hackers get access to this data?

PS - (yes I have a military past and work in IT so I may look at things differently than some other folks).

And yes I understand they can get a ton of the same data from Social media if needed...

But you are giving them easy access to your privacy....

And on a personal thought, Could Robert make this typing area larger for Replies? This damn text editor is way too damn small...



March 25, 2021 at 9:52 AM

FWIW Brian, they don't technically have your "fingerprint" on file. The biometric data parks maintain are specific characteristics of your fingerprint (6 specific spots that can differentiate your finger at @1:100,000 resolution). The data on file is not associated with your identity (name, address, social security number, etc...), and cannot be used to replicate your actual fingerprint for comparison to any criminal database (even if it could, the resolution would only narrow down a search, not provide an exact match).

Facial recognition is even more generic, and more difficult to claim invasion of privacy. If facial recognition data is sacrosanct, then how in the world is a park (or any other business) supposed to secure its property? Facial recognition has been used for centuries, and is the primary method of humans distinguishing each other. AI and facial recognition databases are merely replicating a process the human brain does as second nature. If your face cannot be captured and stored (either in a public place or on someone else's private property), than every camera on the planet needs to be destroyed and humans need to submit to allowing chips implanted into their skin so there is a way for us to confirm our identities in public. This notion that facial recognition is the work of the devil or is driven by some nefarious plot to gather and sell data is the stuff of 50's era conspiracy novels.

I do agree that there are other ways to confirm identity in an efficient (and touchless) manner that would be far less costly to Disney than these advanced facial recognition systems, but criticizing these systems as an invasion of privacy is pretty farfetched.

March 25, 2021 at 9:56 AM

Russ I am bringing up valid points. Again have no problems with any of this since I have nothing to hide..

Are trying to say is that the Data is deidentified? In which I respond, most data can be reidentified.

Yes you can have you face taken from a Walmart video or a ring doorbell anytime but now you are now giving permission to take your identified face and do whatever they want.

My point is we do not know what they are doing with this data...

And you mean to tell me the Gov't will never get a FISA order to see this data?

Yes gov't around the world never do anything nefarious with data....hahahahahahaahahah





March 25, 2021 at 11:23 AM

Yes, bad actors could re-assemble the separately encrypted databases to reconnect the biometric data with the identity data. However, what good does that do them? Are you really worried that someone will hack Disney's databases and start selling the non-expiring park hoppers associated with your MDE account on the open market? The more likely thing is that someone will hack Disney's database that stores your personal information (like credit cards, addresses, birth dates, etc...) to steal identities and run up fraudulent charges on credit cards. Unless you want to go through the trouble of hacking two different databases and then solving the encryption that links them, spending time hacking biometric databases would be fruitless endeavor.

Maybe the value of those data changes as facial recognition data and biometric data become more useful and widespread, but for now, my fingerprints and facial data stored on theme park databases are the least of my worries when contemplating the risk of identity theft.

March 25, 2021 at 11:50 AM

You give the government and corporations all of your most personal of information and identifiers through driver's licences, car registrations, health cards, tax returns, school admissions, hospital visits, online dating, banking, cell phones, internet usage, Ancestry sites, insurance services, voter rolls, debt holders and every online shopping sites from Abercrombie & Fitch to Walmart.

But yeah...

That's how the Russians and Chinese with "get us".

By having access to thumb print and pictures of the people who managed to get a booking for Rise of the Resistance.

March 25, 2021 at 12:13 PM

"By having access to thumb print and pictures of the people who managed to get a booking for Rise of the Resistance." hahahahahahahahahaha

Yes I too have all of my stuff on file already because of past jobs and background checks were I was finger printed....

Just Kidding here but - Why do you think the Gov't invented the Covid-19 virus. So They can have all of your DNA also on file after testing for the virus. Get with it, man....

I was simply making the point to be careful when inviting the Wolf to the chicken coop.

All this for a simple Ticket to gain access to a Park or Attraction.
Yikes....

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Shop Discounted Tickets

Theme Park Guides

Get Our Newsletter