A Disney Dilemma – Fingerprinting at the Happiest Place On Earth

Posted on

My teenage son recently joined me on a business trip to Florida. Our location afforded us the opportunity to spend a day at Epcot Center, a Disney theme park in Orlando. After purchasing our tickets and self-scanning them to enter the park (read The Move to Self-Service for more details on this trend), a smiling staff member instructed me to place my thumb on a sensor so it could be scanned. After two seconds, the light turned green and I entered the park.

It was at this point that I turned around in amazement and stared at line-ups of hundreds of people who Disney Scannerwere being scanned as they entered the park. It was a beautiful process – very efficient and simple. In fact, Mickey Mouse’s ears even turn green when your scan is complete! However, the great customer service didn’t quell the uncomfortable thought that was bouncing around my mind;

Do I want the Disney Corporation to own my bio-metric data?

You need to understand that I live under the assumption that privacy is dead (see The Death of Privacy). This means that I assume my Disney data will be hacked and/or shared at some point in my life. I am equally confident that organizations like Disney are doing their best to safeguard it from those who wish to steal it. However, I’m a realist. I’ve had too many stolen credit cards and received too many apologies about data breaches from Target & Home Depot to believe that my data is truly private.

In fact, my jaded attitude about Disney’s data security may be warranted. Susanne Posel writes that the Disney Corporation provides the US Department of Defense all of its customer data (as a result of the Freedom of Information Act). While I cannot confirm this supposition, it reminds us about the insecurity behind our security.

It must be noted that the death of privacy has both positive and negative aspects. Should a terrorist target a theme park, biometric data may help mitigate the problem. Or it may help track down a lost child or help Disney reduce counterfeit park tickets. However, it can also have a significant down-side.

So if we can’t trust organizations to protect us, this places the onus on us as consumers. How are we exercising our right to choose who gets our data? Are we doing what I did as I entered Epcot Center and mindlessly allowing organizations to collect our personal information? Or are we willing to ask the charming Disney host how we can enter the park without a finger scan?

Privacy is a critical issue which will significantly shape our future. Expect it to continue to grow more complex over time. We are already wary that our Smart TV’s are spying on us. How long until you have to give your fingerprint to use your Visa? In the information age, what do they really need to know? And why are you giving it to them if they don’t?


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com




Photo Credit: Mark Goldhaber


  1. Lisa

    so so good Jeff. I had no idea that they did that. Downright scary stuff, I say.

  2. Arlin M9

    If one collected no goods or money… There should be nothing left to take…!

  3. Palmer

    So many comments I could make, both as a Disney fan and as someone raised within the Christian community and its theories on what the “mark of the Beast” might entail.

    When you talk about the Freedom of Information Act, I’m not sure that makes sense in this situation. Doesn’t FOIA refer to obtaining information *from* the government rather than entities being forced or asked to provide info to the government?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>