Disney CEO rips ‘ill-informed’ Markey over ‘MagicBands’ criticism

Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger sent a scathing letter to Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) on Tuesday after the lawmaker questioned Disney's plans to roll out a new technology used to track guests at its theme parks, calling Markey's concerns “ludicrous and utterly ill-informed.”

Markey, the co-chairman of the congressional privacy caucus and the Democratic frontrunner to succeed Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), told Iger in a letter this month that he feared Disney's new “MagicBands” bracelets could “have a harmful impact on our children.”

ADVERTISEMENT
According to The New York Times, the “MagicBands” bracelets can be used to to track a customer's location, which attractions they visit, what food they buy and other information. The bracelets are part of Disney's new vacation management program “MyMagic+,” which has not launched yet.

In his response to Markey, Iger stressed that customers’ use of the new “MagicBands” technology is “completely optional” and designed with privacy in mind. Theme park-goers have control over the amount of information they share with Disney and how their information is used, he said.

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

The Disney CEO also chastised Markey's office for shooting off the letter before contacting the company for answers about the new program first.

“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,” he continued. “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.”

Customers can choose to provide Disney with more personal information to customize their experience at one of its theme parks, such as having a Disney character greet them by name, according to the Times. The "MagicBands" can be used as a credit card, room key and alert customers when popular rides have short lines. Iger's letter says personal information is not stored in the bracelet.

Iger noted that parents have "full control" over their children's participation in “MyMagic+” and the company does not use personal information to target advertising to children younger than 13, or to an individual child. His letter included attachments to additional information about the new digital program.

Markey has long been an advocate for children's privacy rights online. In his original letter to Iger, the Senate candidate asked Disney to outline what kind of information it would collect with the new “MyMagic+” program and how park-goers could protect the information they shared with Disney.

Markey is running to succeed Kerry, who has been nominated as President Obama’s next secretary of State.

More in Technology

Incoming Oversight chairman ponders information technology

Read more »