by Sally Applin
The New York Times recently posted an article about a new method Walt Disney World is experimenting with to improve circulation in the parks. It’s called the ‘My Magic+’ bracelet.
The article says that visitors would “wear rubber bracelets encoded with credit card information,” which would then make it easy to conduct point-of-sales transactions. Visitors could then simply wave their bracelets at counters and stands to purchase their snacks, meals and souvenirs. Furthermore, the full version of Magic+ can add interactive components via pre-loaded database information, prompting characters to know something about a visitor as they shake their hand, so that characters can give each visitor with My Magic+ a personal greeting. The bracelets will also function as “room key, park ticket, Fast Pass and credit card.”
This means that within the Walt Disney World environment, each purchase, ride and interaction will be tracked, logged and recorded and connected to the individual. Name and personal history information (anniversaries, birthdays) will be collected if visitors opt-in for the full Magic+ experience. All this will be tracked to the bracelet, to one source, Disney.
The main cost of this for the visitor is in personal privacy. With My Magic+, the aggregate of a visitor’s personal data will go into one big source rather than having been distributed amongst different technologies as it is at the moment.
Disney does know what visitors buy (computerized register) and could certainly, and likely, does, collect the aggregate of that. What they don’t do is track people’s precise movements and interactions. A mobile phone might keep track of it’s owner via GPS as they move around, but currently that information is owned by their carrier. Ride specifics might be spotty depending on how a visitor paid, what sort of pass they have, and if they’re using old tickets or not, etc.
With My Magic+, Disney will circumvent the cell phones and credit card data, combining them into one private Big Data database. The credit card company knows the visitor made transactions at the park, and a phone knows roughly where a visitor was, but via My Magic+, Disney will know the specific details of what was bought or ate, when, where a visitor went, and to some extent, whom they interacted with on the Disney staff.
The aggregate of all that data of full human interaction will be private to Disney.
This is a most clever hack: Disney circumvents the platform of the mobile phone app world, and owns the entire data story. For privacy, this is troubling. If there are distributed bits and pieces of data around that isn’t being fully aggregated, there is some protection as things don’t necessarily fully overlap. In the case of My Magic+, a complete story of a visitor’s daily interaction pattern is now logged in one place and owned by Disney.
Disney’s main claim is that My Magic+ will be convenient for visitors and close up line bottlenecks on rides.
However, what is efficient for Disney is at the same time inefficient for their visitors: a big breach of privacy with fairly creepy implications.
Disney’s brilliance is in circumventing the mobile market to get access to the full data collection of all visitor interactions, locations and transactions.
At the moment, the system is opt-in.
Who knows how long it will be before we’re all wearing bands from every venue we attend?
©2013-2014 Sally A. Applin. All rights reserved.