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Lawmaker questions Disney's plan for wristband data

'MagicBands' to be used by Walt Disney World parkgoers will contain computer chips that a congressman fears could be used to gather marketing data on children. Disney says wristbands will be optional.

January 24, 2013|By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times
  • The Dumbo ride at Disney World in Florida.
The Dumbo ride at Disney World in Florida. (Ellen Creager / Detroit…)

A congressman from Massachusetts raised questions Thursday about how Walt Disney Co. will use information it collects when it gives parkgoers new wristbands embedded with computer chips.

Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), who co-chairs a congressional panel on privacy, asked Walt Disney Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Robert A. Iger in a letter what information the park will collect with the so-called MagicBand and how it will be used.

"Widespread use of MagicBand bracelets by park guests could dramatically increase the personal data Disney can collect about its guests," he said, adding that he is particularly concerned at the prospects of Disney collecting information about children.

Disney announced recently that it plans to unveil this spring at Walt Disney World in Florida a wristband embedded with radio frequency identification chips. A unique code in each chip lets parkgoers pay to enter the park, check into Disney hotels and buy food and souvenirs, among other things.

Disney officials promoted the wristbands as a way to make visiting the park easier. The wristbands will let Disney use the data to customize future offerings and marketing pitches.

Disney officials say they have no plans yet to introduce the wristbands at Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim.

In a three-page letter, Markey said he is "deeply concerned that Disney's proposal could potentially have a harmful impact on our children." He asked whether parkgoers will have a chance to opt out of sharing their information and, if not, whether Disney will share the data with other companies.

A spokesman for Markey said his office had not received a response from Disney on Thursday, but in a statement to The Times, the company said participation in the wristband program was optional.

"In addition, guests control whether their personal information is used for promotional purposes, and no data collected is ever used to market to children," the statement said.

If parkgoers agree to release such information it can be used for marketing, Disney officials confirmed.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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