Disney Data-Mining Theme Park Guests “Now More Than Ever” According to LA Times Article

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From MagicBands, to My Disney Experience, to intergalactic “Reputation Scanners”, it’s no secret that Disney has the ability to track their guests at all times. While this level of surveillance would be generally frowned upon (if not loudly protested against) if done by any other billion-dollar company, millions of guests each day consent––knowingly or otherwise––to be constantly watched or monitored.

As recently phrased in an original piece by Austin Carr of the Los Angeles Times,

“At a time when Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and myriad other technology companies are getting hammered over consumer privacy issues, Disney is running the happiest surveillance operation on Earth.”

It’s through the latest technology that they can now see exactly where people are eating, what attractions people are going on, and perhaps most importantly, what franchises and IPs are successful. It’s how they managed to partially open Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, almost to a detriment, without a hitch… but at what cost?

Both fiscally and ethically, data-mining on this scale poses a number of issues. How much money is a company willing to spend to track their customers? Where do we draw the line on tracking and collecting information from children? Carr argues that the company essentially gets away with all these things under the guise of innocuous, family-friendly entertainment:

Disney World is the real-world manifestation of a walled garden, a family-friendly environment without a perceived risk of children being exposed to inappropriate content like on YouTube or Twitch. Wired once called this data-driven customer relationship “exactly the type of thing Apple, Facebook and Google are trying to build. Except Disney World isn’t just an app or a phone — it’s both, wrapped in an idealized vision of life that’s as safely self-contained as a snow globe.”

Disney’s parks division is supposedly booming, with operating profits of up to $4.5 billion, an 18% increase from last year. And while it’d be a stretch to call these data-mining tactics Orwellian (or to draw an internal correlation, First Order-like), they don’t exactly give me the warm fuzzies, no matter how cute it is when my name actually pops up on those “it’s a small world” exit screens.

Should people stop wearing MagicBands or utilizing My Disney Experience? Not exactly. Now, should people be more aware, just as with Facebook, that heaps of information are actively being collected about them in order to generate profit? Absolutely.

My main gripe about this method is that despite park maintenance being at an all-time low, the company is funneling millions of dollars into whatever is trending at the time. However, this method of trend-chasing is intrinsically flawed, given consumers’ fleeting tastes and habits these days. In any case, I’ll definitely be using the hashtag #CountryBearJamboree on my social media far more often now. Big Al’s watching.

About the author

Jessica Figueroa

Jessica lives in South Florida with her 15-pound cat Gordo and a small army of Tsum Tsums. You can contact her, ideally with photos of your cats, at [email protected]

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Fred
Guest
Fred

Is Disney paying very close attention to what people buy at the parks, what food they order, and what rides are popular, so they can staff properly, plan what food to sell, and what items to put in stores? Yes, of course they are. I, for one, am not the slightest bit creeped out or scared by Disney using that info to offer better experiences. The LA Times is trying very hard to make this sound like Orwellian “surveillance” when in fact it’s valuable, helpful information on their guests to make the parks better for them.

Ben
Guest
Ben

I think the main driver of this article was that despite Disney’s investment in surveillance tech, the overall investment in park maintenance has not improved. This can also lead to a self-fulfilling prophesy: Disney uses data to figure out what attractions are most popular. Disney allocates finite resources to focus on maintaining only the most popular attractions. This causes the less popular attractions to fall further into disrepair, thereby causing those attractions to become less popular. This would cause Disney to then further cut resources to less popular attractions, and may even lead to their shuttering of them. I can… Read more »

Ken Goldenberg
Guest
Ken Goldenberg

Interesting take you have for sure. But in a way it has always been there, even decades ago. Back then it was tracked by “turnstile rotations” and the ABCDE tickets used, merch sold and restocking. Same thing, but done manually, so really now it can be done in real-time and more detailed.

Robbo
Guest
Robbo

I firmly believe Disney are using the data to provide us a better experience so we can spend more money with them. It’s win win.
I’ve seen a classic example of certain areas of the park getting too crowded so free fastpasses being pushed out on MDE on rides further away to disperse people. I’m not sure how any of that affects what I put on twitter though.

Ken Goldenberg
Guest
Ken Goldenberg

I can’t comment on the maintenance at Disney World, but out here at Disneyland I think it’s been very good. But Disney World is investing billions into improvements, attractions, hotels, etc. When it comes to “data-mining” – if one is scared about it, don’t participate. But that also means don’t use any sort of “rewards” card at grocery, retail stores, movie theaters, don’t use ANY apps on your phone, don’t use Google or store photos online…. any of that. Doesn’t bother me at all. Disney is no different in data-mining than anyone else. If one wants to shut themselves off… Read more »

Tom Corless
Admin
Tom Corless

Having been to all 6 resorts in the last year, I can tell you that Disney World and Paris are probably the worst, with Disneyland in Anaheim and Shanghai not far ahead.

Tiffany
Guest
Tiffany

I was at the WDW last week and noticed a lot of trash around Animal Kingdom. The parks seriously need more upkeep, it’s gone a bit downhill in the past few years.
On another note I did over hear a guest loudly complaining on her phone about a maintenance problem at the All star Music. The cast member at the front desk told her they are short staffed in that department throughout the whole resort. Maybe that could be a part of the problem and something worth looking into if possible?

RoRo_Wazowski
Guest
RoRo_Wazowski

Disney is spending billions on new attractions but they are cutting staffing in the parks. I don’t have access to any numbers to back that up, but I go 6-10 times per year for the last 15 years. This becomes obvious when there are no longer staff manning the second Fast Pass gate, it seems Frozen Ever After is the only ride that he second gate is staffed. The same goes for the hotels. I’ve heard rumors of 15-20% cuts in custodial service. This causes rooms not to be cleaned very well and delays in room turnaround. Another place they… Read more »

Tom
Guest
Tom

Other than the lack of warm fuzziest, what are the concerns of intrusions into privacy while a guest is on Disney property? Any examples to give to the inherent issue here? Another reader said this was a comparison to the investment in maintenance. But this article links to the other article that goes into detail. This article is simply stating that the wrist bands that are intended to identify guests and their locations are identifying guests and their locations. Should we get upset that municipalities are tracking road useage in order to alter traffic patterns? Should we get upset that… Read more »

Tom Corless
Admin
Tom Corless

Traffic monitoring is no different than a turnstile, we just count numbers. I couldn’t tell you anything about the preferences of the people who read this site as we don’t collect any info from them.

J Anderson
Guest
J Anderson

I can also agree that using this data to have better knowledge of what’s going on in each parks to better the experience of the guests is good. I can also see Ben’s point on what this article is driving at – though I really can’t see a time when Small World and even Jungle Cruise rides don’t exist at a Disney park, especially Disneyland or Disney World. Heck, they are currently producing a live action Jungle Cruise movie.

Seattleite
Guest
Seattleite

Too bad Disney’s surveillance is focused more on consumer spending than safety. And yes, I’m thinking of the recent brawl at Disneyland and how long it took staff to respond.

T.Jon Kelly
Guest
T.Jon Kelly

I gotta give props to everybody on here! I make it a point to not read comments because that are most always filled with hatefulness. But this has been a respectful discussion of varying viewpoints! Disney Magic at it’s finest!