January 7, 2013
Starting this spring, visitors to Walt Disney World will be able to make purchases with a tap of the wrist, using rubber bracelets encoded with credit card information. As The New York Times reports, Disney’s new “MyMagic+” system is part of a broader effort to make Disney parks less daunting for visitors and more amenable to modern consumer behavior. And Disney is betting that happier guests will spend more money.
But the plan also moves the company deeper into the controversial terrain of personal data collection. Disney will be able to track guest behavior in minute detail and then refine its offerings and customize its marketing messages. The company is aware of privacy concerns, especially regarding children, and the plan could increase criticism of an iconic cultural brand that some consumers already call too controlling. But Thomas O. Staggs, chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts, says the company must aggressively weave new technology into its parks or risk becoming irrelevant to future generations.
So-called “MagicBands” will function as room key, park ticket, credit card and more, and can also be encoded with personal details that allow closer interaction with Disney staff. Without prompting, an employee playing Cinderella might say to your child, “Hi, Angie, I understand it’s your birthday.” But guests can decide whether to use the MagicBand system, and how much information they want to share, the Times reports. — Greg Beaubien