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MagicBands, provided free to WDW Resort guests from 2013-2020 [1]
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MagicBands are wearable devices used in the Walt Disney World resorts & parks in Orlando, Florida. These devices collect data on guest behavior to simplify transactions and create individualized experiences for users. They were first implemented inside Disney parks in 2013 [2], and began to be phased out in 2020 to shift their functionality to personal smartphones and begin testing facial recognition software for park entry. [3] [4] MagicBands functioned using RFID technology, which enabled users to be identified from a distance [5] and interact with short and long range scanners throughout Disney property. [3] They packaged MagicBands in the form of a plastic bracelet offered in a wide array of colors and patterns with adjustable sizing for adults and children. While Disney is not the only amusement park to use RF technology in this way, many ethical concerns exist specifically regarding Disney's data collection practices, targeted advertising, and information security with MagicBands, as well as the potential future shift from MagicBands to facial recognition technology in the parks.


Before the implementation of MagicBands, guests entered the park with paper tickets through turnstiles and used in-park kiosks daily to retrieve paper fastpasses. There was no central information source regarding wait times for attractions.[6] [7]

In 2013, the MyMagic+ suite of technology phased into use in the Walt Disney World resorts & parks in Orlando, Florida with MagicBands at the forefront of this advancement. [8] With MagicBands, guests could unlock their resort hotel rooms, make Fastpass+ reservations in and outside of the parks, and buy food and merchandise [9]. The MagicBand would sync with users’ My Disney Experience App, displaying personalized experiences, ride photos available for purchase, fastpass reservations, and dining options.

This system was utilized in Orlando from summer 2013 until early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused Disney World to close for multiple months. When Disney World re-opened in July of 2020, many changes took place including mandatory mask-wearing, social distancing, limited capacity, pausing of the Fastpass+ service, and, later, the phasing out of MagicBands. [10] Beginning in 2021, MagicBands are no longer complimentary when a guest makes a reservation to stay at Disney World in Orlando. This is in preparation for a new update to the My Disney Experience app, which will shift all of the MagicBand functionality to a user’s personal smartphone. [11]


The home page of MagicMobile at launch. [12]

On March 30, 2021, Disney Resort guests were offered the option of the Disney MagicMobile service for Apple iPhones and Apple Watches, with a version for Android devices planned for late April 2021. [13] It is presented as the new alternative to MagicBands, having the same functionalities on top of new features. One improvement highlighted in the service’s initial announcement was the ability to store multiple passes on one device in the pre-existing Apple Wallet service, an option targeted to families. [14] Users can customize the appearance of their passes in the Wallet app, retaining some of the visual customizations from the many different variations of MagicBands. It also introduces a feature allowing guests to link photos and videos from Disney PhotoPass to their profile. [15] The new smartphone app is planned to work in the same way as MagicBands, utilizing the pre-existing Mickey Mouse touchpoints for park entry, fastpass redemption, hotel entry, and all else the MagicBands were capable of. Since MagicBands will no longer be complimentary, guests will be encouraged to use the MagicMobile app as a free alternative.

The Technology of MagicBands

Some of the key features implemented within a MagicBand. [16]

MagicBands are waterproof [17] bracelets, containing active radio frequency technology (RFID) and a small transmitter which sends RF signals through a small antenna, which then sends and receives information through various park servers.[18] [19] Short-range touchpoints are used to verify admission and attraction reservations, and long-range readers are used for providing information to parks to gather insights on guest behavior and deliver personalized experiences. [20] RFID technology does not contain any personal identifying information. Rather, each RFID tag contains a unique number that is transmitted to an encrypted database, which then can transmit users' personal information in response, but does not store it.[18] It has been used in car keys, medical bills, employee identification cards, and toll road tags. [21]

Ethical Concerns

Short-Range RFID: Park Entrance, Fastpass+, Purchases, and Hotels

Short-range RFID sensors used for Fastpass+, purchases, hotel rooms, and park admission[22]

This technology was used for extreme efficiency in the Disney parks and resorts. When users touched the Mickey Mouse icon on their MagicBand to a matching Mickey Mouse icon on a short-range touchpoint, the touchpoint would elicit a bright colorful reaction to confirm the interaction - green for go, or blue for pause. [2] Similar to the park entrance, guests could touch their MagicBands to short-range touchpoints with Mickey Mouse icons to validate their Fastpass+ reservations. [23] Reservations could be made before or after entering a park through the My Disney Experience app on a smartphone, and that data was then shared with the RFID technology to use a MagicBand to validate a reservation. For merchandise and casual dining purchases, MagicBands accessed the credit card information optionally inputted by a guest to streamline the payment process [24] MagicBands are also used to unlock guests’ hotel doors at a Disney resort on-property. [11] These features were not used by all guests because of the security risks associated with having personal information so readily available. [25]

Location Tracking: Personalized Dining & Lost Guests

MagicBands could use long-range readers to track the guests' locations. This technology was utilized in Disney’s Be Our Guest restaurant to notify waitstaff of a guest’s arrival as well as their name and dinner order. Guests were greeted by name and received their dinner orders after being seated without ever needing to tell a server what they wanted. [2] MagicBands could also be used to track and locate guests who lost their parties. [17]

Data Collection: My Disney Experience

The incorporation of these features in one wearable piece of technology results in a detailed collection of information about every guest, including their spending habits, eating habits, movement around the park, and specific interests. [6] Disney claims to have used this information to provide personalized experiences for their guests, including being greeted by name and sharing personal details like birthdays and anniversaries with employees for improved guest interactions. [26] Similarly, Disney used this data to manage traffic flow around the park, as they could direct crowds and decrease congestion by moving certain attractions to less popular areas. [17] Guests who opted into Disney’s Magical Express program could use MagicBands before entering Disney property, as Disney-owned buses could pick up incoming guests from the Orlando Airport and automatically check them into their resorts using MagicBands. [17] While these features were convenient and useful, some guests expressed discomfort with the level of surveillance they and their children were under when they chose to use MagicBands. [6]

Less Invasive Options

Disney offered a less technologically advanced option for guests who were not interested in using MagicBands. Guests could instead receive a plastic card, much like an identification or credit card, that had only passive RFID capabilities, which could only be used in a short range. This card prevented Disney from collecting location data and sharing personal information with employees.

Furthermore, guests were not required to allow personalization functions during their stays. Guests could instead choose to withhold their names from employees and opt-out of receiving special offers. [26] Disney CEO Bob Iger stated that MyMagic+ was a completely optional program that was "designed with privacy controls from the outset." [6]

Targeted Advertising

With the MagicBand, Disney tracked customer purchases and therefore customer preferences. For example, if a MagicBand user used their MagicBand to purchase 4 dolls from the movie Frozen, Disney knew that the user likes Frozen. Disney could then use this information to send that user specific targeted ads in the future (such as Frozen shows specific to Walt Disney World or new Frozen merchandise).[27] Users consented to their information being utilized for advertising purposes by default when they choose to use a MagicBand but could turn off personalization features later. Targeted advertising could be used while guests were in the park and even after a Disney World trip. [28]

Facial Recognition

In addition to Walt Disney World's shift from MagicBand to smartphone use for ticket and attraction validation, they are also testing the use of facial recognition software for park admission. Disney World guests can opt into the test of facial recognition software for admission from March 23 to April 23, 2021. Guests under the age of 18 must receive parent or guardian permission to participate in the trial. Disney's facial recognition software converts a guest's face into an identifying number for park admission. This software is being tested only with guests wearing face coverings and no other additional facial accessories such as sunglasses. [4] Facial recognition is controversial software, partially because of the history of inaccuracies with non-white faces.

Disney has also researched the use of facial recognition in Affective Artificial Intelligence, a technology designed to serve a similar purpose to focus groups. Rather than collecting audience feedback on a piece of media to determine marketability, Affective AI allows Disney to use cameras placed in a movie theater to monitor the faces of every audience member and determine their emotional reactions to different scenes of the film being presented. This process generates a huge quantity of data, which can be quickly assessed by computer algorithms and aid in decisions such as how a film should end. In the future, it’s speculated that Disney could use this technology to determine which parts of theme park rides are most enjoyable to guests or for broader applications to different resort attractions. [29]

MagicBands Fraud

Ideally, the MagicBands are intended to make a hassle-free experience for guests allowing a cashless option for guests[16]. Disney’s online statement notes, “We have implemented technical, administrative and physical security measures that are designed to protect guest information from unauthorized access, disclosure, use, and modification”[30]. Yet they also mention that they are aware that they do their best to ensure the MagicBands are secure, but no security measures are perfect[30]. They take security, integrity and confidentiality very seriously in order to keep up their pristine reputation[30].

However, as mentioned above, no security measures are perfect. A couple of years ago, a Walt Disney World cast member was charged with two misdemeanors after stealing almost $34,000 from the company while working at the Magic Kingdom’s Transportation and Ticket Center over a two-year period (between January 2017 and May 2019)[31]. The cast member was 53-years-old and she had worked for Disney since 1990[31]. She would activate the MagicBands, collect cash from guests for the purchase, void the transactions and pocket the cash[31]. She was essentially issuing Disney World tickets and Magicbands to guests to enter various locations[31]. The sheriff’s office discovered that she had lower cash sales and that she sold 1,965 MagicBands in 2018 but activated 3,272 MagicBands which made her stand out[31]. Disney fraud investigators pretended to be guests and helped find the problem and discover the fraud[32]. She ended up admitting to stealing almost $40,000 and admitted she had been doing this since 2017[32]. She has since been punished for her actions. All in all, this shows that there is no means to perfectly secure the MagicBands, especially considering that in this incident it was a cast member actually committing the crimes. This failure of the MagicBands was costly, but ultimately extremely difficult to prevent.

Similar Technologies

Similar technology is utilized in other amusement parks.


Universal Orlando's Volcano Bay, the water park at Universal Orlando, uses its own wearable device, the TapuTapu. The TapuTapu utilizes active radiofrequency (RF) technology, and was designed, tested, and manufactured to comply with FCC regulations.[33] Much like Disney's MagicBand, Universal advertises this band as a means for customers to personalize their experiences and claims that no personal information is stored. Unlike the MagicBands, however, the device is not owned by the user and must be returned upon exiting the park.

Very different from the MagicBands is the fact that the TapuTapu bands function mostly as a virtual queueing device. They do not allow access to hotel rooms and it is not associated with credit card information. The TapuTapu devices vibrate when it is a user's turn to ride. As soon as a guest leaves the park, any information collected is disassociated from that guest. [34]

Super Mario Power Up Bands

Patent showing the RFID technology of the Super Nintendo World Power Up band. [35]

Universal Studios Japan will also be introducing a wearable device as part of the new Super Nintendo World expansion opening in 2021. This device will allow guests to interact with attractions for games and activities using not only their arms but also their hands and entire bodies.[36] This device is an upcharge and can be linked to a smartphone app.[37] It also uses RFID technology but will be used more for gaming than for park admittance or making purchases. The primary use of these bands will be for guests to "punch" question blocks to redeem coins, similar to those found in the Super Mario games, play mini-games around the land, and team up in "boss battles."[38]


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  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Kuang, Cliff. “Disney's $1 Billion Bet on a Magical Wristband.” Wired, Conde Nast. [2]
  3. 3.0 3.1 Magic Band Eligibility | FAQ [3]
  4. 4.0 4.1 Murphy Marcos, Coral. "Disney begins testing optional facial recognition for entry to Magic Kingdom". Detroit Free Press. 23 March 2021. [4]
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  28. The Current State of Advertising Ethics: Industry and Academic Perspectives Minette E. Drumwright &Patrick E. Murphy Pages 83-108 | Published online: 04 Mar 2013
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