Big Brother Mickey Mouse to monitor behavior via Disney's MyMagic+ RFID wristbands

The Disney Parks blog announced that Walt Disney Parks and Resorts will “push the boundaries of creativity and innovation” and are “taking the Disney guest experience to the next level,” but your personal opinion will decide if that is a whole new level of cool or creepy.

Disney Park RFID MagicBand wristband to monitor behavior, function as room key, park ticket, FastPass, credit card

Disney’s billion dollar NextGen project includes radio frequency identification (RFID) wristbands dubbed “MagicBands” that will interact with sensors throughout the Disney parks and resorts. Tap your MagicBand on the RFID reader and it will replace paper tickets; act as a credit card to buy food and souvenirs, function as a hotel room key, a FastPass and much more. Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts said:

Linking the entire MyMagic+ experience together is an innovative piece of technology we developed called the MagicBand. Worn on the wrist, it will serve as a guest’s room key, theme park ticket, access to FastPass+ selections, PhotoPass card and optional payment account all rolled into one.

Disney has a "My Disney Experience” website as well as smartphone apps available for Android and iPhone/iPad. Together, they are being marketed as a “one-stop-shop” where guests plan their Disney vacations. People are being encouraged to enter as much personal information as they are willing to give out, from birthdays to favorite Disney characters. If parents allow it, then the characters can access the child’s MagicBand information and instead of greeting the child generically, could greet the child by name.

For Disney's MyMagic+ program guests will receive RFID wristbands such as this submitted to FCC

“Guests will not be forced to use the MagicBand system,” according to the New York Times, “and people who do try it will decide how much information to share.” But one of the “catches” might be seen in the list of ‘MyMagic+’ frequently asked questions, on WDWMagic:

  • Will you have to use 'MyMagic+'?
  • No. The system is opt in, and is not required. However, if you do not use 'MyMagic+' you will not be able to use FASTPASS+.

That might be labeled as an incentive, but waiting in “guaranteed” long lines at popular attractions after opting out might also feel like a punishment. Another WDWMagic answer stated:

'MyMagic+' comprises of 3 main components: My Disney Experience website and smartphone app, FASTPASS+, and MagicBand RFID bracelet. The MagicBand replaces traditional tickets with a bracelet that is worn on the wrist. MagicBand combines all tickets, allowing room entry, park entry, FASTPASS+ attraction entry, PHOTOPASS, and room charging.

FASTPASS+ will allow guests to reserve spots for the fireworks and parades long before they enter Disney theme parks. WDWMagic added, “The check-in window will be increased to 60 days before arrival, up from 10 days. Guests will also be able to set a pin number for the 'Touch to Pay' system via the RFID MagicBand. Finally, all guests will be required to login to the 'My Disney Experience' site to complete the online check in.”

If you don’t make your FastPass+ selections, “Disney's system can auto-magically offer a three ‘FastPicks’ as suggestions on what to reserve.” But then again, be cautious who you friend since among the Disney Park Experience terms and conditions, it mentions, “FastPass+ selections made for you by your Connected Friends will count against the number of FastPass+ selections you may hold, and are subject to modification restrictions and expiration rules. … You acknowledge that, by sending and/or accepting an invitation to become Connected Friends, you authorize your Connected Friends to plan activities for you, including making FastPass+ selections for you without notice to you.”

Additionally, while trying to find out more information, under Radio Frequency Cards and Other Devices, the terms state, "You are responsible for keeping your RF Card safe and secure." 

Your Disney Park and Resort RF Device terms and conditions

Disney theme parks had more than 47 million visitors in 2012, so the Big Data potential from this sort of behavioral monitoring will be huge. As Duncan Dickson, a professor in the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management, told the Orlando Sentinel, “It's a marketing bonanza. It opens up so much rich information and gives the marketing groups the ability to target-market specifically to the guest.”

The New York Times added, “Parts of MyMagic+ will allow Disney for the first time to track guest behavior in minute detail. Did you buy a balloon? What attractions did you ride and when? Did you shake Goofy’s hand, but snub Snow White? If you fully use MyMagic+, databases will be watching, allowing Disney to refine its offerings and customize its marketing messages.” Although "Disney is aware of potential privacy concerns, especially regarding children, it "has decided that MyMagic+ is essential."

People give up a lot of privacy for the sake of convenience. Disney hopes it "NextGen MyMagic+” experience will persuade travelers to spend more time and more money at its parks. However when guests use a MagicBand to make purchases of $50 or more, Disney will require them to enter a PIN as a safety precaution.

Staggs said in the Disney blog comment section, “Guests should also know that the band does not store personal information." If your MagicBand is lost or stolen, you “can report it to any Guest Services Cast Member to have it disabled and replaced. With MyMagic+ guests will also have the option of disabling the MagicBand themselves through their My Disney Experience account.” 

New park maps released this week reportedly include “My Disney Experience” details. The MagicBand is initially available to select Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests and guests who purchase photo packages other products, according to Theme Park Insider. MyMagic+ is rolling out in this spring and should be available to all guests by the end of 2013. In a separate move, the Los Angeles Times reported that Disneyland has started taking photos of guests entering the park "as part of a new effort to crack down on abuse of multi-day tickets.” Welcome to the new magical kingdom where Mickey Mouse is also Big Brother.

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