All of a sudden last week, based on some first-hand reports, there was reason to suspect that the Disney MagicBands do, after all, contain the capability to be read at a distance. The assumption until now was that Disney would only be able to track its visitors when they took the step of placing their MagicBands (MB) within millimeters of the readers to pay for purchases or join the FASTPASS+ line, and that customers were therefore in charge of deciding when Disney would know where they were. But if Disney can read MagicBands from a distance, they will be able to track users much more closely, and without their knowledge or minute-by-minute consent. Visitors may feel their privacy is at its lowest ebb when on a Disney World vacation.

fastpass+ 2013-11-23-2179

There are several online reports in the past week or so of people returning from a Disney World vacation and discovering that in their online MyDisneyExperience account (the front end of the MyMagic+ system), there are not only those PhotoPass pictures they took when they scanned their bands, but also photos of them while on the rides — Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Expedition Everest, and so on. This was at first perplexing for them, since they never “swiped” their MBs at the rides. Given the belief that Disney needed to swipe a band to know you were there, it didn’t seem possible for Disney to connect the right pictures to the right people. And yet there they were.

The implication is that the bands CAN be read at a distance, without needing the customer to hold it less than an inch from the reader. That seems counter-intuitive. If the bands are capable of that all along, why bother having them need to touch the scanners directly for FASTPASS+ and for room charges? One answer: it seems more prudent to require actual contact (touching) to pay for things, to avoid fraud and accidental payments.

When the news broke a few years ago that Disney World was moving to a system involving RFID chips, there was a lot of speculation about privacy. Many of those who fretted the most about being tracked were pooh-poohed as the “tinfoil hat” types, sensing conspiracies when none were present. RFID-capable keycards and annual pass cards – sized and shaped just like credit cards – did not seem to present any opportunity for Disney to track users unless they actively swiped their cards. The RFID chip was just too passive; it couldn’t transmit. The debate about privacy then seemed to just die out many months ago, as if the matter were decided: Disney could only track you if you swiped.

Guess what? The MagicBands (which I reviewed positively last week) *do* have batteries in them. Disney has recently said the MBs should last 1-2 years and mentioned the battery as one reason for the shelf life. Johnathen Hopkins, one of the podcasters from WDWFanBoys, cut open his MB to find out what was inside, and the battery was easy to find.


There are many different types of RFID setups and the “read range” varies due to several factors (how large are the antennas, what frequency they are using, how much power is in the reader, is there a battery with the RFID chip, etc). It looks like current hotel keycards and annual pass cards use a more passive RFID chip with no battery, but MagicBands include a battery and thus could be read from further distances.

Confusingly, the plot thickens still more. Let’s dig a little deeper, as Mama Odie might say. Disney’s 2012 letter to the FCC (and other related documents here) specifies that the device, though it contains a battery, uses *PASSIVE* RFID, not active, and that at first glance might seem to limit the distance at which it can be read. But the science isn’t as linear as that (where passive=short distance, active=long). There are innovations in chip design and reader-power architecture that can still read from far distances of even a couple hundred feet. Based on similar devices, it looks like the MagicBand might be readable from 10 meters away, despite being passive. We know Disney is using a battery-assisted 2.4Gz RFID tag, and there exists a similar one on the market that can be read from 30 feet away.

There is even a technical explanation for the fact that MagicBands seem to work in two ways: up close for purchases and FASTPASS+, but long distances for ride photos and to-be-unveiled interactivity on attractions. Namely, the MagicBand FCC specs point out that it has two antennae–presumably, HF (short range) RFID for the restaurant, stores, and FP+ scanners; and UHF (longer range) RFID for the MyMagic enhancements on the rides.

The clues seem to be stacking up. Disney has a battery-operated RFID tag that matches those on the market which CAN be read from long distances, we’ve got first-hand reports by some travelers that on-ride photos are being added to their accounts, and we know of many spots in rides where videoscreens await their first power-up to offer customized greetings to tourists wearing MagicBands. It looks like long-distance RFID scanners are in the cards from these arguments alone.

fastpass+ 2013-09-08-9225

To make absolutely certain, we could turn to Disney’s own privacy policy on Magic Bands, which states (in part):

The MagicBands can also be read by long-range readers placed in select locations throughout the Resort used to deliver personalized experiences and photos, as well as provide information that helps us improve the overall experience in our parks. Guests can participate in MyMagic+ and visit the Resort without using the MagicBand by choosing a card, which cannot be detected by the long-range readers; however, certain features of MyMagic+ are dependent upon long-range readers, including automatic delivery of certain attraction photos and some personalized offerings are only available to guests using a MagicBand.

Well, there’s no doubt left now. I wonder if that explanation of long-range readers was there months ago, when this topic was more hotly debated online. I’m guessing it’s a more recent addition. In any event, we’ve got our answer: Disney is installing long-range readers, at least on the rides.

I’ve got no information about Disney’s intent with these readers. Maybe they are just there to enable convenient connections to your account, like the example of Space Mountain pictures appearing in your online account after your vacation even though you didn’t seek them out. Or maybe Disney wants to install more readers throughout the park. From a technology point of view, there is no reason Disney couldn’t build a sophisticated “war room” with a giant digital map of the Magic Kingdom, and show people by name moving through the park in real-time. Think of it as the Marauder’s Map from Harry Potter… except this would be real, not fiction.

Now, Disney might not want to engage in that much tracking, especially if coupled to individuals and their names. It would probably be bad for business if the public knew. But the salient point is that the technology exists to do that, and the MagicBands make it possible. So the customer is essentially trusting Disney NOT to do it.

What Disney probably wants is to harness the power of Big Data. If they track people by patterns and amalgamation (rather than bothering with what individuals are up to), they can spot ways to save money (shift workers to and fro) or to make money (open additional shops and restaurants). There’s nothing inherently evil in this, but the national conversation about privacy and Big Data is just beginning. One public school’s use of similar RFID chips faced legal challenges (specifically, against unreasonable search and seizure), but ultimately the school won out in court (and ironically discontinued the RFID program later anyway). Let’s also remember Disney is a private corporation, not the government.

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Disney *does* know who each RFID chip belongs to. What’s stored on the chip is just an account number that makes sense only to Disney. But Disney can decipher it and crosswalk that number to its own databases, and thus easily figure out who is doing what in the parks. If they wanted to, they could “drill down” to specific individuals, at least from a technology/data point of view (policy aside).

Some portion of the population won’t be bothered by this. Even if the parks installed enough sensors to know how long it took between your purchase of a burrito to your visit to the bathroom (and how long you stayed there), some folks won’t mind. Reading with the grain, such intrusions into privacy can give Disney valuable information to make the parks a better place. They’d know which bathrooms are the most visited, for instance–maybe this could cause them to take action and build relief facilities nearby? Besides, as they argue in similar discussions around the Web, privacy is already an illusion in today’s society. And they point out (correctly) that we are being tracked already to some extent. Those EZ Pass/Sunpass toll road devices use RFID, and their data is used (in aggregate) to give real-time traffic information.

But I suspect there will also be a portion of the population that will be less charitable if Disney does install sensors everywhere, and these customers discover that Disney knows who they are, where they are, how long they stayed there, and who they were with. One hesitates to invoke Big Brother, as the phrase is so hackneyed by now as to be emptied of almost all meaning, but RFID really and truly might be able to function as a way to track with that much granularity.

Earlier in 2013, Disney was in the headlines when a Congressman (Rep. Markey, D-Mass) asked in a letter if Disney’s new technology could be used to exploit children. Disney CEO Iger responded vigorously, but this was not the kind of national press the company usually seeks out. Will we see a repeat of that scrutiny now?

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Disney is often a leader not just in theme park rides, but in using technologies in general. I wonder if Disney is risking national exposure–and not in a good way–but being out in front with this level of power to track. Even if Disney elects not to *do* the tracking, it looks like the *potential* is there, and I suspect that alone might be enough to convince some people not to come at all. If that scenario happens, a big chunk of MyMagic+ will have collapsed in on itself. It’s supposed to be a money-maker (and I still think it can be!), not a money loser.

Your opinion on all this is welcome in the comments. Are you OK with being tracked on the rides even when you don’t swipe? Would it make you hesitate to visit Disney World if you knew your movements would be tracked, charted, and recorded for Big Data posterity?

WDW Clicks #6

This week we bring the telephoto lens to Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster, explore the Norsk Kultur stave church gallery in Norway, tour the new bus loop at the Magic Kingdom entrance, see the Christmas tree in Be Our Guest, look at the new Joffrey’s coffee carts in DHS, see the altered AFI store and Sid Cahuenga’s, gawk at new Disney posters in Magic of Disney Animation, sample some new holiday food items at World Showcase, and glance quickly at Spice Road Table.

Direct link:

Creepy Cherubs?

I’m a big fan of insider tributes and homages at the theme parks (seeing as I am the author of WDW Hidden History, this is no surprise!), so of course I have long been fascinated with the cherubs in the ceiling of Be Our Guest. These cherubs are representations of the children of the Imagineers who worked on this part of Fantasyland.

Front line Cast Members were told when the restaurant opened that there were also images of the Imagineers themselves mixed in. Looking at the final results, this makes sense. Some of the cherubs appear to have pretty mature features and hairstyles!


Does the old-young combination look creepy to you? Have a look at all forty cherubs and let me know what you think!

  • parker4fm

    I’m trying to figure out why this is a surprise? Disney had stated in the past that this would allow for interactivity while on rides. Therefore this would mean that there has to be a certain level of distance for say, Scuttle on Mermaid to say something directly to a passenger on the ride. I personally have no problem with this. Our cell phones provide a way of tracking us, so do our GPS systems in our vehicles. If Disney is able to make a better guest experience, it does not matter to me.

  • Kevin Yee

    I too have always felt long-distance scanning would be their solution. But the MagicBands require SUCH precise positioning and almost touching to work that a long-distance solution seemed not in the cards at first (maybe they were planning to have you manually scan a reader when you stood in front of Scuttle?)

    I’m not surprised either, particularly, but I wanted to point out that any debates people had about privacy were previously squashed since the consensus was that the Bands were short-distance only, and now that we know it’s not true, I wondered if people had any different perception about privacy.

    • danlb_2000

      It’s pretty clear from last years’s FCC application that the bands have a long range active component. The cover letter says “arm band that transmits a 2.4 GHz
      signal” and “The band has no on off switch and is powered with a non-replaceable coin cell”. The frequency and battery tell you that it’s an long range active transmitter. The cover letter then goes on to say that the bands will ALSO have two passive RFID radios.

    • TheBig2na

      This shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone. Perhaps the answer is more in the types of scanners they are using. Some work at very close range others can be up to 30 feet. I was surprised so many are surprised.

    • HanoverFist

      We were there 2 weeks ago. It’s definitely transmitting. Long range? dunno what you want to consider “long range” but our ride photos showed up on our PhotoPass account without me doing a thing. The only way this could have worked is if the camera scanned our MB’s when we by and tagged the photo. This happened on several rides. However you are correct in that the payment terminals or FP terminals require you to touch your band with precision and can be a little frustrating. Presumably this is to prevent the scanner from picking the bands from everyone around you.

  • ti2gr

    Disney has been able to track people at the parks since the day Disneyland opened. Just by selling a ticket, they can track how many people were in the park, how many people went on a specific ride and so forth. When the magnetic swipe came to the tickets they could tell when the ticket holder entered the park, right down to the time they entered the park. If that ticket got a fast pass they could tell which ride and time it was for. Key to the World Cards with your tickets on them could do the same in addition would say which resort you were at and if needed a lock interrogation a the resort could tell when that key was used to open the door.

    The Magic Band is no different. The Magic Bands do exactly the same thing that the KTTW cards did, with the addition of the My Disney Experience app you are able to now create those Fast Passes instead of walking up to a machine. In regards to PhotoPass, it’s taking the information that would normally be on a PhotoPass card and associating it with a Magic Band. On the inside of the Magic Band is a unique number, that number is associated with the owner of that band. If the reader can detect the Magic Band and associate that band with a rider on the ride, then why should that guest have to wait for their ride photos. If they purchased the PhotoPass package that includes the ride photos there is no reason for them to stand in line just for a photo.

    If you are worried about Big Brother watching you then get rid of your Smatphones and GPS deices, they tell a lot more than what a Magic Band will.

    Quit being such a fear monger

    • ParkerMonroe

      To paraphrase Ben Franklin, “Anyone that willingly gives up privacy to gain a little leisurely convenience deserves neither and will lose both.”

      • Aviator621

        That basically changes the entire context and meaning of the original quote, but ok….

      • johnnylately

        Gak! You can’t use quote marks if you are paraphrasing.

        And indeed you have changed the words, which completely changes the meaning, so it isn’t something Ben Franklin said or meant, it is now a quote of yours.

        Poor Ben is spinning in his grave…

    • danlb_2000

      The difference between the KTTW card and the band, is you know when the KTTW card is being read since you need to bring it close to the reader. The band on the other hand can be read at any time anywhere in the part. With the proper equipment they can also track your exact position in the park the entire time you are there.

      I am not trying to make a case for this being good or bad, just trying explain what is possible.

  • steve2wdw

    Having just returned from a trip to WDW two weeks ago, after reading this post, I decided to check out the PhotoPass section of MDE, and guess what? There were pictures of me riding Buzz Lightyear and Space Mountain, that I did not expect to be there. As Arsenio Hall used to say “things that make you go hmmmmm….”

    • parker4fm

      I have to say that I love the photo idea. I hardly ever check the photo after getting off the ride. I can imagine that a lot of people don’t check it, or for some reason decide not to buy. Once they get home they see this, like the picture, and boom…there’s an extra bit of money for Disney.

      Remember…if the company makes more money…then we will get new attractions.

      • DLFan1995

        Not necessarily.

      • billyjobobb

        but what happens when the company realizes that they don’t need new attractions to make more money. They need new restaurants and new gift shops?

  • jediblueman

    Didn’t they say very early on that there are two RFID devices in the band, one for short range for secure thing (opening doors, purchases, park entry etc.) and one for long range for less secure things and interactions (ride photos, other magical moments)?
    I feel like this has been known for a while.
    I also still don’t understand the privacy concern. Nobody complained about using a KTTW card for park entry, getting fastpasses, opening your door, and making purchases, all of which is traceable. The magic band only goes a little bit further than that, even counting the long range stuff.
    For example…if you’re concerned about privacy related to ride photos automatically showing up on your band. Isn’t the privacy already lost by the fact that they took your photo at all? What difference does it make if it automatically ended up on your My Disney Experience account using magic band technology? Either way, there is a photo of you. That’s about as un-private as it gets.

    • steve76

      The point about on-ride photos is a really good one. Disney takes your photo, and then sells it to the other people in your boat/car/train. I’ve often wondered if somewhere someone has got a Splash Mountain photo on their mantlepiece with my ugly mug on it! Of course we effectively sign away our rights when we enter the park or attraction, but to me that’s a greater breach of privacy (albeit one I’m willing to accept) than being tracked in the parks.

      • olegc

        to make it even more interesting, the supreme court just rules that one person’s personal photo post on social media is owned by them, and can’t be used for commercial purposes. So funnel that down to the example of your picture on someone else’s offer for a Splash mountain photo. Were you made aware that your image was placed for sale to someone else. I know – there is the idea that the park has rights to your image if you enter – but if that’s true then why do you sign a separate release when you come to an event that is in the general park population? its a muddy discussion when you get into details – and will be interesting to see down the road if anything comes of it.

  • LoveStallion

    Just visiting the whole Florida property now sounds like a hellish experience. I hope this never makes its way to local-heavy Anaheim.

    • FerretAfros

      While the experience is different now, I don’t see how this element of it is even remotely “hellish”. Everything indicates that the NextGen project will come to Anaheim in some form in the next few years; personally, I think it’s kind of fun to watch all the Californians squirm at the thought of it! 🙂

      • LoveStallion

        We don’t want your soulless absurdity in SoCal! Ironic statement, no? 🙂

        I do question how much value NextGen has in Anaheim. Much of the money to be made from it is from meal plans, pictures, purchases, etc., and while Anaheim surely has those out-of-towners, the overall mindset of the place is just totally different from that of Florida.

    • KISSman

      I did the MM+ thing in August and could not fathom how this could ever fly in DL. The FP+ aspect of MM+ is nothing short of ‘hellish’. I disliked it enough to see it as a reason to not go back to WDW.

  • steve76

    I have to admit that I am one of the people you mention that doesn’t really have a problem with being tracked in the parks. Whilst I am on Disney’s property, then I think that they have a reasonable right to know where I am on property, which services I use and when, and what transactions I have with them. If they want to know that I went on Pirates and then went to the other side of the park for lunch, and went shopping whilst I waited for my Space Mountain FastPass, then fine – I don’t consider that to be particularly sensitive information. Someone in Mickey Control could probably follow me on CCTV the same way if they were so inclined (was there an outcry when CCTV and undercover security was brought into the parks?). I’m not sure what people are doing in the Magic Kingdom that is so private and secret that they don’t want its owners to know.

    Now, if they were to use a system that monitored your movements after you’ve left property or going around Universal, then that would be another thing entirely. But whilst I’m on Disney property, and with the exception of inside my hotel room, I don’t think it’s an issue. The Magic Band system is very clearly “bounded” to Disney property, which is why I think it’s OK.

    • TodAZ1

      “I’m not sure what people are doing in the Magic Kingdom that is so private and secret that they don’t want its owners to know.”

      That’s not really the point of privacy. What you’re saying is, basically, “As long as you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide.” There’s a reason that search and seizure laws exist. And, I think, what Kevin is saying with this column is how close Disney is getting to that. Orwell’s ‘1984’ could be very right. But it may turn out the corporations are the “Party.” And we let them do it. Comcast has cameras you can put in your house to monitor when you’re away from home. Disney has RIFD monitors. Cell phones are already being monitored.

      I’m not a huge fan of things like this, or even interactivity. I like to watch shows and be entertained. If I wanted to be part of the show, I’d take acting classes.

  • ParkerMonroe

    I can see the advertisements already: Goofy lugging a cart load of cameras, video equipment, cards, coins, lanyards, and other miscellany around the park while Mickey and Minnie stroll through the park (hand in hand) carrying only their MagicBands; taking comfort in knowing all their picture and video needs were being taken care of by hundereds of hidden cameras.

  • jcruise86

    The stalking capabilities will not really be utilized extensively until Disney implements “Magicbands 2.0” in 2016. (I read about Magicbands 2.0 on the internet! Google it for yourselves.)

    And Magicbands 3.0 will involve tracking you with drones more advanced than these–coming soon from Amazon.

    When you wish upon a drone
    Under Mickey you’ll be prone.
    Anything your heart desires
    will come to be known by the Disney Corporation.

    It begins!
    I for one welcome our mouse overlord and. . .

  • OprylandUSA

    I guess I missed the news that Sid’s closed. That was the one of the few unique (only?) places left to shop in any of the Disney parks. It will be truly missed.

  • chesirecat

    I believe this feature has been known for a while, and I think it is already used on the cruise ships. It can actually be a great safety feature for parents who lose their child in the parks, now they can find them more quickly before a pedophile guest takes advantage of them. I don’t find it creepy because the guest is on Disney property, and 99.9999% of guests aren’t up to anything bad, and your position in the park, like where you are on the cruise ship, doesn’t reveal anything . . . scandalous/embarassing about you, yes?

    • Rebekkap

      Given the blanket CCTV coverage of Disney parks, it’s ludicrous to suggest a paedophile would be lurking around to take advantage of kids. They’d be caught in a second, and it can’t remember any news stories about paedophile a being caught at Disneyworld, can you? Not to mention the whole stranger danger thing drives me a bit nuts, as kids are far more likely to be abused by someone they know.

  • StevenW

    Long Distance tracking doesn’t bother me as much as potential for fraud. There is no reason to doubt that long distance tracking will make it easily for a hacker to identify a user, duplicate the RFID, and utilize the benefits without knowledge of the user. If Disney is able to buy the equipment, a hacker will be able to do the same with off-the-shelf devices.

    I do find it interesting that the tracking of ride photos is viewed as a negative in some cases. I think it is a plus, a clear advantage, but somehow Disney has made it seem like a negative with their strange privacy policy. Why write it like that? It is a strange why to advertise a benefit. It is also strange that the user can’t opt out.

    This does vindicate Congressman Rep. Markey, D-Mass. Iger’s response was very rude.

    • Wedbliss

      [quote]Long Distance tracking doesn’t bother me as much as potential for fraud. There is no reason to doubt that long distance tracking will make it easily for a hacker to identify a user, duplicate the RFID, and utilize the benefits without knowledge of the user. If Disney is able to buy the equipment, a hacker will be able to do the same with off-the-shelf devices.[/quote]

      This is exactly what bothers me about this. You know that criminals are working hard to come up with ways to “pick your pocket” in the parks. I am not schooled in this technology, but seeing as how every measure has a countermeasure, how is Disney going to protect people by being spied on by those intent on fraud?

    • Hastin Zylstra

      Have you tried to duplicate RFID? Not nearly as easy as taking any simple magstripe card (such as a credit card) and running it through a scanner. A mag stripe card simply stores a number, the CID, and the expiration. Lots of potential for fraud there.

      There’s at least a level of encryption, and a key pair, that doesn’t expose the direct account number. Even then (compared to a credit card) – you are looking at at least 3 layers of security. The PIN code, the obscured credit card number, and the encryption on the RFID number.

      Much more secure than handing a credit card to your server, or the printed barcodes on the Disneyland tickets.

      • Wedbliss

        Well, that’s good news. Thank you.

  • Dan Heaton

    I don’t have a problem with Disney tracking me in the parks. Do they really want to know that I rode Pirates 10 times? Okay. I also don’t suspect nefarious goals from the company about what to do with the data.

    However, this brings up the question that’s been on a lot of people’s minds about how Disney plans to really turn a profit with MyMagic+. Decorating the bands and upcharging for certain experiences doesn’t seem to be enough. The way for them truly to make money is to use the data and sell it (following legal guidelines) to vendors. Combining this with the potential to “personalize” the experience, and there’s a route for MyMagic+ to do well.

    Still, I suspect this is going to collapse onto itself like you mention. The guest benefits just aren’t there, and the lack of new attractions puts more focus on what those Magic Bands really do.

    • lionheartkc

      It’s all about targeted marketing. They learn about you, they learn what you like and don’t like, and then they direct all of their marketing efforts to your touch points. It’s an extremely effective way to make A LOT more money while making the customer feel like they are actually getting better service instead of being fleeced.

  • solarnole

    In 2013 no company should be this wasteful. You can tell by the way the battery is fused to the band that it cannot be recycled. Plus they do not even have a recycling program set up for the bands. I will not be going to Disney as long as they support such wasteful practices. Wall-e taught then nothing I guess.

    Green is Universal

  • lionheartkc

    While I can’t say I’m a fan of a lot of what they are doing with Magic Bands, the one thing I am a fan of is that they are going to fix the transportation problems that have developed at Disney World. Disney is finally going to know how many people are at what bus stop and where they are waiting to go and then be able to route buses appropriately. A cast member who worked for My Disney Experience told me that the new bus stop at Magic Kingdom already has this tech installed.

  • DisneyFunGuy

    I am probably in the minority on this but, I am not happy with this new MagicBand that Disney is slowly introducing us to. And I think it all stems around the privacy issue for me. I understand when it comes to high-tech stuff now, that a lot of our privacy is not very private anymore. Such as Facebook, GPS, cell phones, etc.

    But I guess what’s different about the MagicBand (for me) is the fact it seems to monitor every second of what you do throughout the Parks. I really don’t need Disney knowing how long I’ve stood in line for popcorn, how long I’ve chatted with certain cast members/guests, or even how long I’ve been in the bathroom. They don’t need to know what I bought, or for how much. They don’t need to know what food I’m ordering at certain restaurants. And the idea of them taking photos of me without my knowledge/approval makes me feel un-easy. And then having ALL your personal information on that band is unsettling to me, as well. Over-all, I just don’t want Disney knowing every little detail about who I am.

    And I’m sorry to hear that Disneyland/DCA will be getting this same type of MagicBand. I realize there’s nothing I can do about it and will just have to roll with it. But I just don’t see why we need to make this drastic change. In a way, it’s a little scary how all this high-tech stuff is running our lives. Perhaps I’m more “old school” and like the way things are. Heck, I even enjoyed when we used to have A,B,C D and E ticket books. (sigh)

    • Hastin Zylstra

      I assume you’re an Annual Passholder, right? If you are, and you utilize your discounts, they can already do this.

      [quote] I really don’t need Disney knowing how long I’ve stood in line for popcorn, how long I’ve chatted with certain cast members/guests, or even how long I’ve been in the bathroom.[/quote]

      While they may not know how long a specific guest has been in the bathroom – the new Crane toilet sensors can actually output a graph of specific times in front of a toilet – to better adjust cleaning and flushing times. If you use Fastpass, they can determine your time between attractions (scans) and correlate that with scan times at the front gate to get an flow pattern for the parks.

      [quote]They don’t need to know what I bought, or for how much. They don’t need to know what food I’m ordering at certain restaurants.[/quote]
      If you use an Annual Pass for discount, or a credit card – they could keep and use this information already.

      [quote]And the idea of them taking photos of me without my knowledge/approval makes me feel un-easy.[/quote]
      Security cameras, and on-ride photos have already taken pictures for years.

      Disney already can take this information, and use it. They’ve just created a new system that vertically integrates all the information.

  • Indy Fan 1

    This is why we need a new CEO of Disney who will undo most of the company’s decisions in the past two decades. If it were me, I would completely scrap this whole system and go back to paper tickets.

  • eicarr

    I DARE them to try to do this in California. I plan on wearing a band so I can be part of the settlement.

    • Aviator621

      I guess you’re still waiting then for the class action lawsuits for all our smart phones and credit cards that basically track you in the exact same manner

  • JiminysCrickets

    Was at WDW early November 2013, had Lunch With An Imaginer. My guy was delightful and a major division manager at Magic Kingdom. He described using a portable “Tablet” out in the park and viewing a map of the Magic Kingdom, with each banded guest showing up as a “dot” in real time. There was a big cluster in Adventureland, then making an “announcement” about an event in Tomorrowland and watching in real time as part of the cluster broke off and headed to Tomorrowland. He remarked it was neat to see how different “blips” moved at different paces and how they used different routes to travel.

    He also said the Sorcerer Mickey hat in Hollywood studios was going to be cut up and removed. Too big and reinforced for hurricanes to be able to easily dismantled. He would not confirm (or deny) Star Wars land and removal of Osborn lights, and would not confirm that this is the last year for garland over Main Street due to float heights.

    Really recommend Lunch with an Imagineer, great food and 3 hrs with the best and the brightest!

  • Kidgenie

    First of all Great Colum Today. I found this riveting, even surprising, and yet I am not hitting a panic button. So had to ask myself “Why am I surprised?”, and “Why am I not in a panic or up roar”. First Surprise….

    Hind sight being 20/20, this should have been painfully obvious. Your Customized Small World Doll appearing to you while on the Attraction…. How exactly did I expect Disney was going to know exactly when to show it to me? My Fast Pass Plus window is a Hour wide! Load times and thus wait times vary. It cannot be the case that as soon as I redeem my Fast Pass Plus it will be X minutes until I am at the spot they want to show it to me. So yeah, the “long range” comes into play, though technically speaking, this still isn’t very long. Showing random stranger the customizations meant for me only because the part of the line I am in is close enough to the trigger point. Think about it, the Its a Small World line bridges over the boats as they approach the load station and this puts me very close to that final scene. The range as to be long enough to sense me on the boat passing buy, but not me while I am in a near by boat or just walking into the attraction. Now Panic…This isn’t as obvious and I really had to put more thought into this. And boy do I know how wrong everyone is going to tell me I am:) but here goes….

    This technology is scary no doubt, how it is used is more important. If your scared of My Magic Plus, you should be terrified of Facebook and Google to the point that you will no longer even turn on your computer. You think Disney is Date mining? They probably are, but not anywhere on that level. Honestly there isn’t anything in Disney’s motivations of making more money that scares me that much because of what Disney sells to make money in the first place. Its what they are “data mining” for that does NOT have me concerned. Do they care what car I drive? When I last purchased it? What type of dwelling I live in? The last time I used a Credit card at a Doctors office? At least so far this is not the type of private information that helps them make a sale of the product and services they are trying to sell.

    They want to know why I am in their park TODAY, what I did, and so later they can entice me back with similar offerings. I am ok that. They want to know what food I buy so again they’ll know when and what to tell me about their 100’s of F&B offerings. Ever had that moment you discover a food item you love and everyone else has known about long before you did? That’s lost sales to Disney and lost yummy-ness to me. I think this speaks to knowing what I want before I know what I want. Again, I don’t see the crime here.

    Ditto for purchases… what am I buying and why? So they find out I love trains, and now can send mailings about new merchandise they know I will have a much more likely hood of purchasing. Again, there are things I did not purchase simply because I didn’t know it existed in the first place. So yeah, they are going to trick me into buy more stuff I love. But if its stuff I enjoy, so be it. As much as this technology is, I don’t think there is anything about it that is going to get me to buy a Pink Minnie Mouse Stoveware set. I don’t cook, not a Minnie fan, and if anything, Disney may now know to not even bother to tell me about it. Great! Because nothing they do could trick me to opening my wallet for something I don’t want.

    In the end, the entire point of My Magic Plus, 2.0, 3.0….. etc etc… seam to be to get me to open my wallet more by date mining why I want to open my wallet. If its something I want its a win for both me and this corporation. I got what I wanted, and so did Disney, an additional sale.

  • loaloa55

    This time, too much is too much! is you’ve read Kevin Yee’s article you’ve understand why this Magic + stuff with all the magic bands, and more, is an abomination. And recently i also learned that now, in addition to bip their magic bands, AP tickets, etc… when they enter a park guests also have to scan their fingerprints!!! ( may be the fingerprints scan existed before they introduced Magic + but it changes nothing ). So, now, Disney has everything, including your fingerprints, and the mouse can know in real time where you are, what you buy, where you wait or don’t wait, where you eat, and even upload in real time your pictures on their server, all this with the good alibi to “provide a better experience to the guests”. Bullshits. They just need to do this because they’re so stupid that they need all this data to counter balance their lack of vision, and all this in the goal at the end to make more money.

    Is it any kind of Magic band that is responsible of the success of Disney’s California Adventure? No, the only thing responsible of it are the beautiful new Buena Vista Street and the great Cars Land, plus the World of Color show and new rides. Instead to spend their money where they should – building new attractions – the mouse prefer to spend more than $1.2B in this monstrosity which rings the end of all privacy. Because, yes, the pictures you shot in the parks ARE private.

    So, go ahead, give to Disney “the key of your house”, not your “real” house but even worst: everything which is part of your identity, including your fingerprints. But don’t come crying when you’ll realized that the world you’ll leave to your children has no innocence or privacy anymore, because no one forced you to accept all this. And when you’ll wake up and you’ll realized that you’ve contributed to create a world in which the word privacy don’t mean anything anymore, it will be too late, the System will have built his golden jail and you and your children will be locked in.

    It’s very simple and not difficult to understand: what you do, what you prefer, what you buy, which ride you like, what pictures you take are not the business of Disney. They don’t have to know it, it’s PRIVATE. Sure, it’ll take may be 5 more seconds to go through the turnstiles with your ticket instead than your magic band, or you’ll wait a bit longer to get inside the restaurant because you won’t have any reservation, but that’s the price to pay to keep the only thing that we really own, our privacy, our life, and what we’re doing with it. For Christ’s sake, this should not be that difficult to understand, is it?

  • Mike34

    My family of five has our 4th Disney tip in the last 5 years coming up in two weeks. I have read all the reviews of My Magic+ and how this can make Disney more money. At first I didn’t see this changing impulse buys for me, but doing the planning my wife and I decided this would be the first trip we would do park hoppers because we made all PM fastpass+ reservations.

    Now we don’t have to be in DHS @ 9am to ride Toy Story Mania or at Epcot to not wait 90 Minutes at Soarin. There is $300+ dollars to Disney for park hoppers (that we never would have bought) that allow me more freedom to visit the parks and not be stuck in long lines to see the attractions we want to see. Most people see fastpass+ as a – and maybe it will be I will let you know in 2 weeks but it already got more money from me and I will now get to enjoy AK (usually a 1 day per trip park for us) on a few different days instead of being stuck on our one day with Tusker House reservations. The last 3 visits we have had the worst weather of the trip on this day and not gotten to do one of our favorites (KRR) at all.

    All the talk has been about they are going to know what food you like and what attratctions you like and where you are, I don’t see a problem with that. If you are in their “house” then why shouldn’t they be able to know what you are doing, if you were in mine I would want to know.

    • CaptainAction

      Yeah, but everytime you decide to switch parks you are 20 minutes from the front gates of your current park, 5 minute walk to the buses, 10 minute wait for the bus, 10 minute bus ride, 5 minute walk to front of new park, 2 minutes for bag check line (if things are good), 15 minute walk to your first restaurant, attraction. It takes between 1 to 1 and1/2 hours to switch parks.
      Is it really a good idea to go back and forth to Animal Kingdom on 3 different days? That’s 6 hours to 7 1/2 hours for 3 days of just going back and forth between AK and other parks.
      AK doesn’t have more than half a day of stuff to do for us. Everest, Tough to Be A Bug, a meal or two, maybe a show (they seem pretty old now), and maybe or not w the Safari. Everybody is pretty indifferent to it and the rest of this park.

      • Country Bear

        It sounds like the new system doesn’t support or encourage park hopping. The reviews I have read indicate that it is challenging to get any fast passes when you decide to hop to another park (and you can’t currently book a park hopping day with MyMagic plus bands). I personally don’t have an issue with that, for as CaptainAction said, it takes hours to hop parks at WDW and it’s a waste of time for one or two attractions. On our last visit we didn’t even get the park hopper option because we have never seen the logic in hopping, based on the current transportation system (we tried it once and that was 2 hours we’ll never get back). I personally think it’s a waste of money and time and perhaps Disney is now conceding that too.

      • steve76

        Country Bear, I actually interpret it differently. I don’t generally park-hop (except maybe to Epcot in the evening for dinner) but under the new system I might be more inclined to do so.

        Currently, I use FastPass as much as possible, collecting FastPasses throughout the day and using them when I can. If I spend the morning in MK, then I would collect a number of FastPasses, many of which would be for the afternoon. If I then hop to Epcot after lunch, I a) cannot use many of the FastPasses collected, and b) cannot get FastPasses at Epcot because they have mostly run out. So the FastPass system encourages me to stick to one park per day.

        Under the new system, I can book my FastPasses for Epcot in the afternoon or evening, and go to Magic Kingdom in the morning to take advantage of short lines first thing – safe in the knowledge that I am not sacrificing any FastPass opportunities.

  • Fukai

    Really? Who gives a crap if Disney knows where you are at all times while you’re in the theme parks? What difference does that make? If you’re doing something naughty then I suppose you have something to worry about, but who else cares and why? You go on rides, see shows, walk, shop, and eat. There you go. That’s what Disney will find out.

    I HATE the idea of Fastpass +, but aside from that I think the magic bands will make life easier.

  • danyoung

    We live in a world where someone gets to see us naked every time we go through an airport scanner, so this type of info being available to Disney just doesn’t bother me in the least. And it makes total sense that the Magic Bands have 2 levels of signal recognition. If they didn’t have the up close mode, then people passing by a register would be picked up by the scanner. I know, there’s also the 4-digit password, but if it were matched up with the wrong MB it would just fail, and the customer would have to repeatedly try to match code to MB. So that mode has to be close up. I guess the surprise is that there is another long distance mode. And it’s really not that big of a surprise, as Disney has been touting the possibility of interaction with attractions, characters, etc. for quite a while.

    While several folks have expressed their concern for what Disney MIGHT be doing with all this data, there is absolutely no indication that Disney IS doing anything with the info other than exactly what they’ve said. It’s a big ol’ public company, and any nefarious action on their part would almost definitely become public knowledge very shortly. Heck, there’s been the possibility of fraud ever since credit and debit cards came into being. As long as there’s a way of policing the vendors, I don’t have any problem with Disney knowing how many times I go on Pirates. Just as long as they can’t see me naked while I’m doing it . . . . .

    • DobbysCloset

      It would be Small World I would be worried about, seeing me naked. Those dolls are far too happy about SOMETHING.

      Time to re-watch “Westworld.”

  • AmandasDad

    Frankly, it pretty much says they work up close and from a distance on the Disney web site. There is an alternative to the bands. They have a card that cannot be read from a distance but can be used for FP+ and purchases.

    Anyone else annoyed that if you use your MB to get into the park, you cannot use the regular old paper FPs? That is what I am bummed about.

  • Not My Real Name

    Watch “Minority Report” and see what happens to Tom Cruise every time he enters a public space and is assaulted by ads, ads and more ads in the form of computer voices that have ID’d him from his retinas.That’s what it’s coming to.

    Check out “Airplane II” and see the scene where a security scanner reveals every passenger in full-color nudity from the waist to the shoulders. This was in 1982! We were warned….

  • bayouguy

    Let the system fail and implode. Going to Disneyland or WDW ought not be a occurance of money making beyond the “normal” means. No, it’s not the government doing the snooping but nonetheless, it’s still a “Big Brother” system of intrusion, something designed by Disney for that purpose.

  • sean317

    Your picture is taken the 1st day you arrive at the park before you enter (at least mine was) & I am positive there are cameras everywhere in the parks! You should not come to Disneyland if you do not want people to see you. Fraud would be the main issue for me with this.

  • donsullivan

    I don’t understand the faugh outrage (and click-bait titles) as if the tracking capability of the bands is new information. Disney has stated publicly many times over the last year that the Magicband contains both RFID (short-range) and Bluetooth (long range) radios. The RFID was intended for room key, admissions, payments, etc.. and the Bluetooth was for more environmental things like guest tracking within the parks or on-ride experiences where you would not be able to immediately touch something with the band.

    This has been covered many times over, it was even described by Tom Staggs in his presentation at All Things D earlier in the year.

  • gmaletic

    They can track us. I don’t get why I should care.

    So they know what I like to ride. That’s information I’m happy to share with them.

    Given the turnstiles and cameras already in the park, they had this ability anyway.

  • second blue teacup

    Honestly, if you want privacy and you have a cellphone, Facebook account (or know and associate with anyone with a Facebook account), have a club card for a supermarket, go to public venue AND say you are concerned about privacy, you’re either hopelessly naive or amazingly dim.

    I can see a lot of useful applications for Disney in streamlining and plussing their operations and offerings.

    Plus it would be awesome the first time they shut down an attraction once they discover that its only audience is stingy passholders that are taking advantage of it.


    If you don’t want to be tracked, DON’T STRAP ON THE BANDS!! They’ve been pretty clear on this concept.

    Like they haven’t been tracking you for years as you swipe your credit cards through out the parks anyways!!



    • KISSman

      That’s assuming that everyone uses credit cards when they buy things throughout the park (which they don’t). Secondly, at some point, you won’t have a choice when it comes to the bands. You have to use it to get in the park so you will have to have it on your person somewhere and just because you bury it in your pocket doesn’t mean that it’s going to ‘magically’ respect your privacy and stop tracking you.

  • AaroniusPolonius

    1. Surrender the idea that the Disney Parks were ever “public space” to begin with. They were not and are not. You buy a ticket, you book a hotel room, you enter a private realm where Disney sets the rules. If they want to track your every move, then they will. If you don’t like it, don’t choose to attend a Disney Park. It’s really as simple as that. Nobody is ‘force feeding’ you My Magic Bands or Avatar Land or whatever. You don’t have to spend money to enter and enjoy/bemoan a Disney Park, after all. So, if being tracked to this level of minute sophistication is beyond your realm of acceptance, don’t go. Done.

    2. As some have mentioned, it’s plainly obvious that this level of tracking was part of the initiative from the get-go. This is a massive, long-term investment in the study, the manipulation, and the exploitation of consumer behavior, on par with Wal-Mart’s database and delivery system (which, via the study of consumer behavior, now just delivers tons of Pop-Tarts to areas under hurricane watch, for example.) Disney is spending a ton of money to make tons of money at their theme parks.

    They’re soon going to have a mass of data, collected in real-time, delineating both macro and micro trends at their theme parks. For example, they’re not just going to know that the area between the Rock-n-Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror gets crowded by 11am, but the demographics and the psychographics of the crowd that forms there…in minute detail, and then they’re going to set up carts, shops, entertainment, etc that caters specifically to the segments making up that crowd, making more money.

    To put this another way, if Disney discovers that traffic patterns at the Magic Kingdom favors vegetarians in Frontierland at lunchtime, and meat lovers in Tomorrowland, wanna bet that the mutant junkie giant turkey legs will be supplanted with vegan offerings? Or move to Tomorrowland? (Obviously, a gross oversimplification.)

    3. As a marketer by trade, Disney is going to make a fortune on this investment. Why? Because the more accurate, detailed and minute the marketing data is, the more effective the marketing initiatives will be. To put this another way, sending out a broad missive or message might get heads to turn, but targeting people with specific messages for products, services, food or whatever that their market segment is specifically inclined to purchase, is the way to make the cash register ring.

    From personal experience, even if a brand sends out a broad message “We’re magic for everyone,” what they really mean is “we’re magic for those who have the money to purchase our magic in large amounts,” and the better way to reach those customers is via micro-targeting their market segment. That Disney will be able to (a) not only do this in real-time but (b) produce studies on holistic and segmented consumer behavior at their parks is extraordinary, and will make them BUNDLES of money if they do it right. Heck, even if they do it wrong!

    4. This is kind of why the prior “Iger divests money from rumored projects to My Magic+” article read like so many shades of fecal matter. Going into this investment, Disney had to know that it was going to be monstrously expensive, but was going to have a multi-generational payoff. Yes, I believe that the investment is a lot “cart before horse,” in that Disney Parks, and especially those in Florida, need ride and attraction infrastructual investment BEFORE MyMagic+ rolls out. But in no way does the potential of the My Magic+ investment lead one to think that “all projects are pulled.” Once this puppy is up and running, Disney will have the ability to do things with their customers that they didn’t have before…and for decades to come, as well. In many ways, My Magic+ is the 5th Gate at WDW: a long term investment that will pay off dividends long after the initial cost is paid back.

    5. I’d give good money to be a fly on the wall once the extensive tracking data from My Magic+ starts coming in. Like any marketing study, there are always surprises (see: Walmart discovering that Florida’s favorite hurricane food is Pop Tarts.) Disney is sure to discover some amazing details about the market segments that visit WDW. “Lower-middle-class Anglo-Americans from Ohio are more likely to buy Mickey Mouse ice creams after a thunderstorm than all other groups” and such. I’d LOVE to see how they decode a visit from bears and queens on Gay Day, for example.

    6. This ability to track visitors at the macro and the micro level will most certainly play into Anaheim’s long term goals of altering the visitation dynamics of that resort from Annual Passholders to Long Term Exclusive Disney Vacationers. To think that they won’t use that level of dynamic knowledge to discourage or encourage visits, purchases, exclusives and/or whatever is naive, wishful thinking. If anything, it gives Disney a massive, bludgeon of a tool with which to enact this long-term goal in a quicker, more expedient manner.

    That’s it!

    • AaroniusPolonius

      Here’s an example of how I think that My Magic+ will pay off massively for Disney.

      Let’s say an extended family comes to visit Epcot for a day:
      Married Couple (Segment: Married Couple)
      Their Five Year Old Child (Segment: Youthful Dependent)
      Two Grandparents (Segment: Elderly Secondary Caregivers)
      Single Uncle (Segment: Unattached Family Member)

      Now, let’s say, from the data they’ve collected via My Magic+, they’ve determined that by around 3pm, 68% of 5-year old youthful dependents and their married couple parents leave the park for a nap or a rest.

      In addition, they note that at least 50% of unattached family members vacationing with the family stay in the park, with psychometrics pointing towards a desire for either independent exploration or “just being over kid time.”

      Now, without My Magic+, Disney is losing at least three members of this party for at least a few hours. They may pick up some more income from them elsewhere by accident, but they don’t know. My Magic+ gives them the chance to make an active play for their income.

      At 2:45, the parents get a text from the system.
      “Going back to the hotel to take a nap?
      You’ll need your rest, because we have a whole lot of fun in store for you tonight!
      Book a family dinner at
      Or leave the little one with your parents and have a romantic night for yourself around the world. While the tyke and the grandparents enjoy [INSERT HOTEL-SPECIFIC ACTIVITIES HERE] why not relax and unwind at [INSERT ROMANTIC DINNER SPOT HERE.] Your Magic+ vacation for the night is a mere click away!”

      At the same time, the Uncle gets a text from the system.
      “Need a break from family fun?
      Why not join us at [INSERT UNDERPERFORMING BAR/RESTAURANT/PUB/WONDERS OF LIFE PAVILION HERE] for a special Happy Hour just for singles! Live music, select nibbles and great conversation with new friends await! From 3-6 at [LOCATION]”

      And the grandparents get a text.
      “Why not give the parents a night off and bond with your grandchild? Take the little one off their hands and go explore [INSERT COST ACTIVITY/DINNER/ETC HERE.]

      You get the idea.

      Instead of broadly throwing at a variety of activities with the hopes that some guests will partake, Disney will be able to throw out specific, targeted activities that generate profit to specifically targeted guests at specifically targeted times based on research data mined from the prior behaviors and actions of millions of guests. It’s flipping genius.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        What’s more, they can juice up underperforming areas of the parks with these microtargeted initiatives. Let’s say that ‘singles happy hour’ is held somewhere in “The Land,” right when the crowds are winnowing out of Future World and into World Showcase for the evening, upping the till over there.

        Or that the ‘married couple romantic dinner’ pushes up head count and profit at ‘Askerhaus’ or ‘Restaurant Marrakesh.’

        Or that ‘bonding time with grannie’ involves a private cabana rental for a movie over the resort pool.

        Disney is using data to microtarget and generate more income based on what they perceive to be user desire. Which is to say that they are going to be able to use past consumer behavior based on segmentation to make an even more precise educated guess on what to offer those specific consumers, at certain times of the day, to certain income brackets…to certain profit.

        Because even if something like only 10% takes Disney up on their microtargeted offers (and I’d suspect that the number will be much, MUCH higher, considering that WDW is a controlled environment where people specifically go to spend money on leisure, like 35-40%) they’ll make a fortune in additional income off of each guest that takes them up on the offer.

        Which is why they’re building the system in the first place.

        In the above example, just via the right suggestions, the right offerings at the right time of the day and to the right segmented groups, Disney sold some drinks, a romantic dinner and a premium, poolside cabana. Not too shabby.

    • gKaR

      well said 🙂

  • Herc

    Question about the magic bands.
    Previously our entire party of four could get fastpasses for a certain attraction. Two people would not want to ride it so the other two were able to get on twice. Can magic bands be switched? It is still the same amount of people going through.

    As for the Dwarf Mine Train ride, what are the other buildings going to be. I know one is the Dwarfs cottage.

    And you showed the tree in Be Our Guest Castle. The angel on top is Angelique from Beauty and the Beast Enchanted Christmas played by Bernadette Peters.

    Great photos. Thanks.

  • Tigertail777

    When you say you trust “Disney” with this technology, what you are really saying is you trust every single cast member and every person that has access to the system. You are trusting that there is not a single dishonest or angrily disgruntled employee in the entire lot of changing shifts that will attempt to use this system to their personal advantage. Which, I hardly need point out the larger the system the more chances of something fraudulent or dishonest happening (who would ever think that their personal credit information might ever be in danger of being hacked into through the actual credit card company? Nobody until it actually happened.) It is foolish to say you trust a faceless corporation as if it were a single entity, a corporation is composed of a chain of people and you can only hope and pray you don’t get “the weakest link”. Cynical, perhaps but truthful as is the saying “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. One of the things that has made me so cynical of supposedly airtight systems: I used to work at a bank, if you really think that your money is as secure as you think it is… brother you better think again, there are a ridiculous amount of “no-brainer” security measures that should be done that aren’t because it costs extra money they don’t want to spend. That is a national BANK chain folks, and yet you put so much trust in a corporation that is just as convoluted. “Here take my extra information about my family Disney and I trust that not a single person in your company will abuse it in any way shape or form.” The more trust you give anyone without it being earned, the more you open yourself wide for it to be abused.

  • lovechows

    Thank you for this article, Kevin. We’ve been concerned about My Magic since we first heard about it, especially after already being part of the Epsilon security breach–which included our Disney credit card account. We do not want to have our privacy invaded and our vacations tracked by Disney or any other corporation. Since WDW has implemented this at the Florida parks, we have changed our plans and cancelled our plans to go there. If they implement this in California, we will be buying RFID wallets for them (or cancel our annual passes if this doesn’t work).

  • Kevin Yee

    “But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.”

    “Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything.”

    “But the plans were on display …”

    “On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”

    “That’s the display department.”

    “With a flashlight.”

    “Ah, well the lights had probably gone.”

    “So had the stairs.”

    “But look, you found the notice didn’t you?”

    “Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”


    (^^Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference)

    YOU may have known MyMagic+ would have long-range scanners, but there are lots of people who don’t. Are the first-time visitors really supposed to read through the terms of service on MyMagic+ as they plan their vacation? Because this is the only place Disney is really talking about it.

    I still think there are going to be people surprised by this, and that it will make national news eventually.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      Kevin, I agree that the general, non-theme park fans might be surprised at the level of tracking sophistication that MyMagic+ will employ at Disney Parks. However, this is MiceAge, a site for what assumes are theme park and Disney enthusiasts, so one would expect that this audience would be (a) well aware of the cost of My Magic+, (b) that with a cost that high (a billion plus and counting), the tracking system would extend beyond making happy robots address you by name whilst in line and (c) readers of MiceAge would have looked in the basement with a flashlight for the fine print.

      I don’t dispute the newsworthiness of the piece, and if our mass media weren’t a happy oligarchy owned by like four companies, Disney included, I’d think there would be a larger story (instead of a ‘fringe’ story, due to ABC-Disney working to bury the lead, so to speak. Remember, Disney has successfully buried the Reedy Creek Improvement District reality in the general public’s mind for more than 40 years now; how many common tourists know and understand the municipal dynamics and benefits at work at WDW, that the resort is, in effect, a self-governing ‘Vatican City’ in the state of Florida? I suspect not too many, and those that do know, don’t care.)

      I do think My Magic+ extends beyond the ‘Big Brother’ already in place in the real world of tracked credit card transactions, Facebook accounts and so on and so forth, specifically due to the nature of the environment where it will be employed. Unlike in the real world, where tracking consumer behavior is the result of a collection of many open sources, Disney will have a closed-source environment, a petri dish of their very own to data mine at the Disney Parks, which will give them more accurate reads on the data, and enable them to really manipulate behavior and consumption in that closed-source environment.

      Remember, unlike a credit card transaction of a half hour on Facebook, a visit to a theme park is typically a full day affair. Once the system is in place, Disney will be able to monitor pretty much the entire day of their consumer base, segment that base into cohorts, and use those cohorts to attempt consumption manipulation over a long period of time. So, there is a level of knowledge and consumer behavior that Disney will be able to mine that is much more minute, specific and accurate than the typical multi-source data profiles we all have out there.

      It’s also probably foolish and naive to think that the data that Disney mines from a resort visit ends at the end of your vacation. Of course Disney-as-corporation is going to use the data mined from your vacation to a Disney Park to sell you merchandise, entertainment and other stuff based on the data from your Disney Park visit. For example, say your visitation pattern marks you into a market segment defined as “married with children who favor live entertainment over rides.” Do you not think that Disney is going to market their touring and/or Broadway live shows to you and your family, based on your market segment, based on your behavior in the Disney Parks? Of COURSE they will, just as they’d target “young adults with no children who favor multiple rides on premium roller coasters” to watch ESPN or the latest, blow-em-up episode of SHEILD. Of COURSE they will.

      But… it’s also foolish to think that the average, everyday visitor won’t look upon My Magic+ as a vacation benefit, as Disney looking to personalize and perfect their vacation, especially after the company has a large sampling of data to work with. With Disney offering up experiences seemingly to “you” but really to the market segment you most align to, a lot of people will find an idealized vacation experience, where even more than before, Disney knew just what they wanted when they wanted, where they wanted (and one suspects, at the price that “you” but really the market segment you most align to was willing to pay.)

      The answer for those “Ron Swansons” out there, rightly concerned about privacy and the like, would be to not use the My Magic+ system, which is why Disney seems to be working overtime to make the system as appealing as possible to as many people as possible, from the ‘band glam’ accessories to the personal texts and greetings and so on. It’s going to be a hard sell once the “just the vacation I wanted” reports start coming in (to say nothing of the monolith that is Disney PR: just try and get a reporter to skew objective after being put up in the Grand Floridian and boozed to oblivion,) but I’m sure some people will not gravitate to My Magic+, much like there are people who don’t use FastPass, or credit cards or have a Facebook profile. Remember, it’s a choice to engage with all of those things, and one can choose not to.

      Or…one can simple choose not to go to a Disney Park. Do I think that My Magic+ will cause a mass exodus from the Disney Empire? Heck no, and I suspect, in some room full of charts and graphs and numbers, there’s a case already made that the system will both increase visitation and guest spending exponentially.

      As I said before, it really is the 5th Gate of WDW, both in terms of cost and in terms of profit generation.

      (Full disclosure: I work in the advertising and marketing industry and have for the past 15+ years, so I’m both in the know and in the love of data mining, collection and micro-targeted marketing strategies. I’d also tell you which way it hangs to get a deal on new underwear, so perhaps I’m biased.)

  • Gurgie

    My biggest issue with the bands is the same issue that I have with the update on the last bit in the WDW HM and the last scene in the new mansion ride in Japan, I forget the name of it. It takes out the wonder of it, the “how’d they DO that?!” Roz making personalized comments to the crowd is amazing to little ones because they don’t know there’s a man behind the curtain. But with technology already personalized at home, by wearing a band to WDW, it makes it easy to figure out that it’s the band that is making the characters talk to you.
    A little less on topic, but it’s the same thing with the digital effects used in HM and the last scene in the new ride in Japan, I forget the name of it: it takes away the wonder when all you’re doing is watching a wall with pictures.

  • TimeTraveler2442

    Good idea to track each individual 24 hours a day. And this Disney system can be used to test how it could work planet wide. Should be coupled with massive video and audio surveillance so that there is a continuous record of your whole life, both at home and in public. …….. Not ! …. lol Seriously though, Disney is risking alienating their clientele. Which ever wing-nut thought this up should be reassigned to the Churros cart of some other less dangerous position with Disney, etc.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      There already is a continuous record of your own life. Now, since the data is from multiple-sources, or multiple ways in which you engage with trackable elements, it takes time to pull all of that information together into that continuous record, but that record already exists, awaiting (today) a detective to pull it together or (tomorrow) a suite of software to pull it together.