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New Disney Bracelet Eliminates Need for Keys, Money & I.D. -- But Is Privacy an Issue?
(Photo: Disney blog)

New Disney Bracelet Eliminates Need for Keys, Money & I.D. -- But Is Privacy an Issue?

"...makes me feel a bit creeped out."

Sure amusement parks have lockers to store your sunblock, extra pair of shorts, hats, towels and other necessities, but some unlucky parent will still need to be in charge of the cash, credit cards and tickets. This person also has the extra task of keeping them dry and not turned out of pockets on a wild ride. All these things might add up to a less enjoyable experience and it's something Disney is hoping to improve.

A new project being launched at Disney parks called MyMagic+ would eliminate the need for any of these loose articles. It's not an all-inclusive fee system though, but a bracelet that does everything from unlocking your hotel room door to facilitating mouse ear purchases to telling Princess Jasmine your little one's first name before they're formally introduced.

(Photo: Disney blog)

The New York Times reported Disney executives saying that they expect the initiative, estimated to cost $800 million and $1 billion, will provide a better experience for customers, who will therefore spend more time at the park and as a result bring in more revenue.

The bracelets will use RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips and would function as a room key, park ticket, FastPass access, PhotoPass card and optional payment system in the parks. Although not mentioned as a function of the MyMagic+ bands, the technology could allow for physical location tracking within a set area as well.

Here's more from a blog post by Disney's Chairman Tom Staggs explaining how the project would benefit customers (emphasis added):

Like most people who visit Walt Disney World Resort, my family and I have our “must-do” attractions, and as the father of three boys, those attractions often end with the word “mountain.” Now, rather than dashing as a group, or even splitting up to gather FastPasses, imagine booking guaranteed ride times for your favorite shows and attractions even before setting foot in the park. With MyMagic+, guests will be able to do that and more, enabling them to spend more time together and creating an experience that’s better for everyone.

A major component of MyMagic+ is the new My Disney Experience website and mobile app, which gives guests planning their trip the latest information on all Walt Disney World Resort has to offer. We know that some people like to plan every aspect of their Disney vacation in advance while others like to plan very little, letting their day unfold spontaneously. No matter where guests fall in that spectrum, My Disney Experience gives them the flexibility to plan as much or as little as they’d like to create the exact Disney experience they want. They can book dining and other experiences and reserve times for their favorite attractions, shows and more through an enhanced FastPass system, FastPass+. Once they arrive, they can use their smart phones to spontaneously change their plans in the moment, exploring our parks at their own pace and getting the most out of their visit.

(Photo: Disney blog)

You might remember the use of RFID chips in school IDs getting some attention last year for the privacy concerns some parents and students had. TheBlaze followed the controversial use of the technology in a Texas school district and some students' crusade against such a card. One student was almost expelled for refusing to use the card but recently won a legal battle that prevented the school from taking such action.

Disney understands that RFID-equipped bracelets could come with similar privacy concerns as well. The Times reported that when signing up for the optional MagicBand service, guests can tailor the amount of information they want Disney to know in the first place. For example, parents wanting their little ones to have a more personal experience at the park can opt in to providing information that would allow a Disney character to greet the child by name and even wish them a happy birthday.

One of the more obvious concerns is if the band becomes lost or stolen. For protection, using the band to make purchases requires a PIN. The Times reported that they can be deactivated remotely by park employees.

As for location tracking of guests, this was not addressed specifically from a privacy standpoint. But a potential benefit could be if a child were lost. If he or she was wearing a bracelet, finding them could be relatively easy.

Duncan Dickson, a professor in the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management, told the Orlando Sentinel that Disney's project is a "marketing bonanza."

"It opens up so much rich information and gives the marketing groups the ability to target-market specifically to the guest," Dickson said.

The Sentinel reported amusement-park consultant John Gerner saying that he expects that the project will do well as customers are often "willing to pay quite a bit for convenience."

But what do Disney fans have to say about the use of such technology? The Times reported these two thoughts from users on a Disney fan site:

“Although I know this type of technology is making its way into every facet of life, it still makes me feel a bit creeped out,” wrote Jayne Townsley on StitchKingdom.com.

Pam Falcioni, another StitchKingdom user, had the opposite response. “I think it sounds awesome,” she wrote, adding, “As far as ‘Big Brother’ watching over us as we wander the parks, anyone worried about ‘real’ privacy wouldn’t be wandering around a theme park full of security cameras.”

Disney has been testing the technology in its Florida parks and Staggs wrote that the response thus far has been "fantastic."

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