AI News, When convenience meets surveillance: AI at the corner store

Disneyland is tracking guests and generating big profits while making surveillance palatable

At a time when Facebook, Google and myriad other technology companies are getting hammered over consumer privacy issues, Disney is running the happiest police state on earth.

The resulting data could include the rides families frequent, the characters kids and parents are most drawn to and the television and film merchandise into which their dollars are funneled.

Just a decade ago, Disney relied on paper tickets and old-school turnstiles, and, for the most part, didn’t know that much more about resort customers than those who came to the park’s opening 64 years ago this week.

Finally recognizing the growth of social media and mobile phones in the late aughts, the company embarked on a $1 billion digital transformation of Disney World with the MagicBand, a gizmo that can hold your place in line, make payments and even unlock a hotel room door.

In 2013, in the early days of the MagicBand, Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger was at loggerheads with Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts —t he privacy advocate who recently introduced an internet bill of rights — over how the system would monitor children’s whereabouts and interests within Disney World.

The reason is fairly simple: 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.

Whereas data-mining efforts have harmed the reputations of tech companies, Disney’s parks division is booming, with operating profit up 18% last year, to $4.5 billion.

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