When Privacy and Enhanced User Experience Collide Online

by Ken Mueller on January 10, 2013 · 13 comments

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300px Cinderella Castle When Privacy and Enhanced User Experience Collide Online

One person’s creepy is another person’s cool.

That’s the thought I had when my friend Amber posted an article on Facebook about Disney World’s new plan to track visitors with wireless bracelets. Long story short, Disney is going to distribute the wristbands to park goers.

With the ability to opt out, the wristbands will be encoded with names and ages of the wearer, as well as be linked to your credit card information. Users can also opt to provide more information. And the wristband not only acts as your pass to the Magic Kingdom, but functions as your hotel room key. And while it may cost Disney up to a billion dollars to implement, they clearly think it’s worth it.

Imagine walking through Disney World, and Snow White walks up to you and wishes your child a happy birthday by name. Something like that could make an already memorable trip even more amazing. Or imagine booking your favorite ride before you even get to the park, so you don’t have to wait in line. These are all a part of the benefits of such a program.

Some will think aspects of this are creepy, while others will think it’s pretty cool and innovative. For me, within the confines of the park, I think it’s pretty cool.

Is there potential for abuse? Certainly. But you can bet that Disney will be working carefully to make sure your private information is kept safe, both internally and externally.

It’s a trade off: giving up some information in return for an improved user experience.

In fact, this is what grocery stores and other retailers do with rewards cards or frequent shopper cards. They have the ability to track our purchasing habits in return for discounts and rewards, and it’s a trade off that many of us are willing to make.

Now take a look at your online habits. Every major site and social network does the same thing. While they don’t charge you for using them, you do agree to their terms of service every time you sign up or log on, whether it’s to Google something or post something on Facebook. The more information you enter, the more they know about you. They track your patterns of usage, and use that information for both marketing purposes, and to improve your user experience. Not only are they improving the experience across the board, they are customizing it for you based on your own habits and preferences.

It’s a trade off: give up some privacy in return for a better experience.

Sometimes we think it’s cool, and other times we think it’s creepy. Or even both at the same time. Some of us are more private than others. Personally, I’m OK with most of what happens online. I’m very careful with the information I share, and I love when I’m presented with an online experience that is all my own.

This is where we are headed online. Search engines, social networks, and even shopping sites like Amazon are collecting our information and habits. In some cases we can opt in or opt out, but this is the future of the web. For instance, having a Facebook or Google account allows me to log into other sites much more easily. I like that, even though it means I’m ceding a measure of control to those sites.

It’s a decision we all have to make for ourselves. Do we choose to visit Disney World/Facebook/Google/the grocery store, and give up some privacy? Or do we stay home and stay private, and miss out on all the fun?

 It’s a choice we all need to make, and it’s not an easy one.

 When Privacy and Enhanced User Experience Collide Online
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12 comments
John_Trader1
John_Trader1

Collection and mining of "big data" is the future of marketing Ken. I don't think that the issues that Disney faces have to do as much with using the technology itself as it does with how they store it and who they share it with. That's essentially at the crux of privacy advocates' issues with this type of tech, collecting data (as you point out) in the absence of an opt-in or opt-out option. Since there currently isn't any official legislation or guidelines policing the collection of this type of data, it's a big gray area as to how to enforce it.

Disney's experience with using fingerprinting for park access and re-access was a precursor to this endeavor. It will be interesting to see what may happen if someone hacks into their database and a data breach ensues. It will surely be a gigantic mess and make all of us question the lines of privacy and convenience.

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

Disney is a master at tracking. We are Disney Vacation Members and they are always trying to make your experience bette, more efficient and less hassled. I am telling you traveling with 5, it will be awesome to not have to dig out tickets & pass them out & collect them, etc.  Disney has awesome security as well. I do like that you can opt out. I aslo read via the Disney Vacation Club member site that you can control what if anything they collect on your children ---BONUS!

Latest blog post: Come see our new digs!

amberdegrace
amberdegrace

I'm all for the fun. The way I see it, if someone means to do us harm, they don't need fancy technology to do so. Disney isn't going to risk their empire on something that isn't safe for their guests.

With that said, I still think there is a concern about any random employee having access to all that information on guests. There are sick people everywhere - in schools, daycares, churches, and yes ... even Disney. This seems to give a sick person very easy access to delicate information.

LizJostes
LizJostes

The timing of this is funny to me; Kristin wrote about online security today. :-) 

Honestly, because it's Disney, I do believe they would be vigilant about security of their data. But in general, this idea is kinda creepy to me.

katskrieger
katskrieger

This is one case where I definitely side with the personalization. There was a theme park / wristband thing that Coca-cola did in Israel (may be getting this wrong), that was extremely successful. And we have to remember to distinguish personalization from privacy. Facebook's constantly changing privacy-infringements piss me off, but it's because I don't often see an upside. In the case of Amazon, or even the unfolding G+/Google, I see the upside all the time. I think that brands who are smart enough to figure this out will come out on top.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@John_Trader1 I think in most cases people don't realize or don't care until something bad happens, even if it only happens once. But we tend to forget and move on pretty quickly.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@sydcon_mktg they really seem to do a good job, and positives seem to outweigh the negatives. I wonder how a smaller, local business would do with something like this, and if people would hate it.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@amberdegrace Agreed, but I think they will be very careful in who uses the information. I wouldn't be surprised if they would make sure the folks with this info have great background checks and would have to be bonded. Not that that guarantees total safety, but it would help. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@LizJostes I like that you can opt out, and control what info you give. And I don't think we are that far off from this becoming a standardized type of thing. I could see grocery stores and other retailers doing similar things with wireless technology. They could put microchips in their bonus reward cards, knowing that you have it with you whenever you visit the store, and then track your movement through the store in addition to your purchases. The traffic flow info could be extremely valuable.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@katskrieger I don't even mind most of it with Facebook, because I do believe they are trying to improve the experience. I worry more about some of the things that G+ is doing because the privacy controls aren't as good for the user. And the personalization vs. privacy thing is the point of this post. You can't have one without some measure of the other.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@barrettrossie @KenMueller @katskrieger Brands definitely need to keep this in mind. I think if entities like Facebook or Disney weren't s big, it would be a lot harder for them to get away with things like this. 

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