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Disney's computer-chip bracelets raise concerns, lawmaker says

January 24, 2013|By Hugo Martin
  • Disney's MagicBand, a wristband that holds a computer chip to make purchases at Walt Disney World, will be offered starting in the spring.
Disney's MagicBand, a wristband that holds a computer chip to make… (The Walt Disney Co. )

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

Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), co-chairman of a congressional panel on privacy, wrote to Walt Disney Co. Chairman Robert Iger, asking 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 prospect of Disney collecting information about children.

Disney announced recently that it plans to unveil this spring at Walt Disney World in Orlando a wristband embedded with radio frequency identification chips (RFID). 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 say the wristband will make it easier to visit the park and will also let Disney use the data generated by the wristbands 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 if parkgoers will have a chance to opt out of sharing their information and, if not, will Disney share the data to other companies.

Markey asked Iger to respond by Feb. 14.

A spokesman for the congressman said his office had not received a response from Disney as of Thursday, but in a statement the company said the wristband program is 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.

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Follow Hugo Martin on Twitter at @hugomartin

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