Mickey Mouse Is Watching You: Does Disney's MyMagic+ Know Too Much?


Walt Disney World in Florida is about to get a little more magical, but Mickey Mouse will have to soothe some skeptical privacy advocates along the way.

Disney (DIS) officially introduced MyMagic+ at its Disney World resort this week. As it rolls out in the coming months, guests will be able to use wristbands with RFID chips to enhance and map out their vacation days at the entertainment giant's four Florida theme parks.

MyMagic+ -- along with the new My Disney Experience website and mobile app -- will allow guests to reserve ride times and book dining reservations, but it also offers enhanced features that may worry some privacy advocates.

How Did Cinderella Know My Name, Mommy?

Since the wristbands will serve as in-park IDs -- combining in one digital location your park tickets, reservations check-ins, and even a way to charge your account for merch without whipping out a credit card -- one potentially popular benefit mentioned by some industry watchers is that Disney's costumed characters will be able to identify children by name.

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Anyone who has ever been to Disney knows about the long lines for rides, or to get characters to pose for snapshots and sign autograph books. What if, when you reach the front of the queue, Snow White or Peter Pan can greet your kid by name? What if ride attendants know where you're from as you board an attraction? What if making a reservation at a restaurant could cue the staff to celebrate an upcoming birthday in your party, without you having to mention it?

Some guests will naturally find these to be magical enhancements to a place that's always trying to raise the bar on wonder. Others may be more skeptical. Is Mickey Mouse joining forces with Big Brother? What if I'm a bit uncomfortable with Disney knowing precisely where in the park I am at all times -- even if that information is allowing it to text me tips about nearby attractions with minimal wait times?

Most guests will appreciate the ability to reserve FastPass ride times ahead of arrival. Even those who prefer to be more spontaneous will probably appreciate having the chance to spend less time in line and more time on vacation.

However, it will all come down to the way that Disney communicates about and implements the MyMagic+ system. The last thing that the family entertainment giant wants is to confuse foreigners or appear as if it knows its guests too well.

Disney is attempting to up its game. If it does this right, the program will become something that traditional amusement park operators and rival theme parks will have no choice but to match if they want to keep up.

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Motley Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney.

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