Iger defends MagicBand after Markey criticism

CEO: Disney doesn't market to kids under 13, and MagicBand doesn't store personal info

Walt Disney Co. chairman-CEO Robert Iger is pushing back against Rep. Edward Markey’s concern that a new theme park wristband program may “have a harmful impact on our children,” calling the Massachusetts lawmaker’s public statements “ludicrous and utterly ill-informed.”

In an unusually strongly worded letter to Markey, a Democrat who is seeking John Kerry’s seat in the U.S. Senate, Iger said that “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 the letter.”

Last week, Markey released a copy of a letter he sent to Iger in which he raised privacy concerns regarding the launch of Disney’s MyMagic+ program, which includes the introduction of a MagicBand that will enable a guest to enter his Disney Resort hotel room, buy food and merchandise and enter Walt Disney World theme parks and water parks. Other features of the MyMagic+ program include a website and app that allow a guest to make reservations and some FastPass ride selections before arriving at the park.

Markey had raised concerns that the MyMagic+ would give Disney too much information about their guests, writing that “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.”

But Iger said that the MyMagic+ program is a “completely optional program that was designed with privacy controls from the outset.” He added that personal information is not used to market to children under age 13, nor do they target or personalize ads to an individual child or share children’s personal information with any third party.

“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 wrote.

In answering a series of Markey’s questions, Iger said that guests’ personal data would not be stored in the MagicBand, and that it is not GPS based and “does not enable the collection of continuous location signals.” Guests also can elect to use a card instead, with a short-range chip whose location cannot be detected “by the long-range readers stationed in the park.”