Taking a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth just might be one of the most high-tech vacations you can take. And that's not necessarily a good thing, say some critics.
As part of the new MyMagic+ initiative, Disney is introducing MagicBands for guests at Disney World and its associated theme parks, including Epcot, Downtown Disney and more. Designed to be "Your Key to a More Carefree Visit," these copper-infused wearables can track your location via long-range radio transceivers, and will also charge your Disney account whenever you make a purchase. The transceivers communicate with other receivers that are located throughout the park, though Disney claims that MagicBands do not include GPS, and therefore cannot track you once you've left the Kingdom. (Phew.)
Ian Bogost, a video game designer and founder of Persuasive Games, recently discussed MagicBands in a post on Medium. He gives Disney credit for being open about the technology behind them--the privacy section of the FAQ is rather straightforward--which (in theory) might help foster a relationship of trust between band wearers and the company. This sets Disney apart, Bogost argues, from other data-collecting corporations, such as Google and Facebook, both of which have been criticized for vague terms of service.
Still, even when you're upfront with customers about data, it's possible to push it too far. Here are two of Bogost's biggest complaints about how Disney is collecting and using data via its MagicBands. And he's not the only one. Customers are already upset over kinks in the system.
In addition to letting people make purchases, get into the theme parks, access their hotel rooms, and skip the lines for rides with a set of FastPasses, MagicBands promise to "deliver amazing personalized experiences." In practice, this means that if you agree to certain settings, characters in costume can access information about you and your children via hidden sensors. Your name could be mentioned on any given attraction. Goofy can literally come up to your child and wish them a Happy Birthday, Time reported. But this also means that MagicBands can inform Disney of your exact location in the parks at any given time, which poses a pretty real customer privacy issue, Bogost says. "Disney knows when you're on the toilet," he announced while examining the My Disney Experience FAQ.
The MagicBands come with special perks and ultimately benefit those who are willing to dish out more for the Disney experience. If you visit Disney World for a day trip, or stay at a non-Disney owned hotel, for instance, you are forced to use an older swipe card system for park tickets and entry. While MagicBands can be purchased inside the park for $12.95, only customers staying at Disney hotels receive MagicBands with their vacation package--enabling them to reserve FastPasses ahead of everyone else. As one disgruntled guest puts it, "Disney is becoming a place where spontaneity is a bad thing."
Readers, what do you think: Is Disney pushing the boundaries of what a company should do with data, or is this the new normal for consumers?