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Disney fires back at privacy concerns over MyMagic+

Massachusetts state Representative Edward Markey won’t be getting any votes from Mickey Mouse in his bid to win the Senate seat formerly held by John Kerry, now the U.S. Secretary of State.

Disney MyMagic+

Disney's MyMagic+ relies on RFID to offer an enhanced customer experience.

Markey is embroiled in a controversy with Walt Disney Co. after firing off a letter last month that questioned the company’s plan to issue RFID-enabled wristbands to its customers. Although the practice is common at other theme parks like Great Wolf Resorts, Markey, who is Co-Chairman of the Congressional Bi-partisan Privacy Caucus, denounced Disney’s plans for the potential privacy concerns they create.

“Collecting information about how guests use Disney amusement parks could improve the company’s ability to target advertisements at its guests, including children,” Markey wrote in a letter to Disney. “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’s letter followed a detailed story in the New York Times about Disney’s MyMagic+ program. Disney chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger fired right back at Markey, admonishing the lawmaker for not doing his homework.

“We are offended by the ludicrous and utterly ill-informed assertion in your letter dated January 24, 2013, that we would in any way haphazardly or recklessly introduce a program that manipulates children, or wantonly puts their safety at risk,” Iger said in his letter.

“It is truly unfortunate and extremely disappointing that you chose to publicly attack us before taking the time to review our policies and/or contact us for information, which would have obviated the need for your letter. Had you or your staff made the slightest effort, you would have found most of the answers to your questions already existed and were publicly available online.”

It’s apparent that politicians and the general public still require some education about the use of RFID technology. In the early days of RFID’s rise, education was almost as important as proving the technology could work with liquids and metals. Legislation to ban or control the use of RFID was a common occurrence at the federal and state levels.

However, as time passed, RFID seemed to gain a greater acceptance on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers viewed the rapid deployment of the technology through federal departments like the Social Security Administration and the Department of Defense.

Markey’s actions indicate that the technology is still misunderstood by some lawmakers. Markey’s letter to Disney came after several lawmakers in Texas introduced legislation to ban the use of RFID to track students in Texas. The action is the result of the furor created this fall when the San Antonio Northside Independent School District began a pilot program using RFID technology in student identification cards.

“With all due respect to the legislators, the effort is probably misunderstood,” district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez told MySanAntonio.com. “This is not about tracking students; it’s about locating students when we need to, within the four walls of the school. This is especially important when the security of the school is threatened.”

 

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