Markey Not Seeing Magic in Disney MagicBand

Representative asks how company will use kids' personal information

Congressional privacy hawk Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) isn't quite seeing the magic in Disney's new MyMagic+ system, which leverages mobile apps and a radio frequency-enabled (RFID) bracelet called a MagicBand that can serve as a credit card, room key, parking ticket and other functions.

The system hasn't officially launched yet, but the company hopes to have it up and running in its theme parks later this year.

Disney calls the billion dollar program an "enhancement" to the Disney experience, designed to make it easier for visitors to plan and visit Walt Disney World. But Markey, the co-chair of the Congressional Bi-partisan Privacy Caucus is worried that the system could track, collect and potentially target young guests with ads raised Markey's privacy radar.

"Although kids should have the chance to meet Mickey Mouse, this memorable meeting should not be manipulated through surreptitious use of a child's personal information," Markey wrote today in a letter to Bob Iger, Disney's chairman and CEO.

While the MagicBand sounds like it can do everything except make coffee, it acts more as a pass key than portable computer. It doesn't collect nor hold personal information. Nor does it use GPS to track location. Like the plastic card keys used by hotels, if lost, the MagicBand cannot be linked to an individual. 

When launched, MyMagic+ will be optional. Guests, after reviewing Disney's privacy policies and practices can choose whether they want to participate and have their personal information used for promotional purposes. As for children, "no data is ever used to market to children [under 13]," as outlined in the company's privacy policy

Disney has until Feb. 14 to provide Markey with more detail about the MagicBand system, including how the data is collected, stored, and shared and whether the information will be used to target children with ads or other marketing messages.