Disney to Launch High-Tech Payment Process, Prompting Privacy Concerns

Walt Disney World is revealing plans to launch a new way of experiencing its parks–an electronic bracelet encoded with credit card information and technology to enable guests to make purchases within the parks and be notified when they are at the front of the line for popular rides.  But even though Disney says the “MyMagic+” initiative will make a Disney vacation far less complicated for its estimated 30 million annual visitors, the system is raising some eyebrows among those who are concern with the privacy issues inherent in any data collection and “customized” marketing.  From The New York Times:

The initiative is part of a broader effort, estimated by analysts to cost between $800 million and $1 billion, to make visiting Disney parks less daunting and more amenable to modern consumer behavior. Disney is betting that happier guests will spend more money.

“If we can enhance the experience, more people will spend more of their leisure time with us,” said Thomas O. Staggs, chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts.

The ambitious plan moves Disney deeper into the hotly debated terrain of personal data collection. Like most major companies, Disney wants to have as much information about its customers’ preferences as it can get, so it can appeal to them more efficiently. The company already collects data to use in future sales campaigns, but 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.

Disney is aware of potential privacy concerns, especially regarding children. The plan, which comes as the federal government is trying to strengthen online privacy protections, could be troublesome for a company that some consumers worry is already too controlling.

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