Enter the World of Yesterday, Tomorrow and Fantasy: Walt Disney World's Creation and Its Implications on Privacy Rights under the Magic Band System

By Stone, Kaitlyn | The Journal of High Technology Law, July 2017 | Go to article overview

Enter the World of Yesterday, Tomorrow and Fantasy: Walt Disney World's Creation and Its Implications on Privacy Rights under the Magic Band System


Stone, Kaitlyn, The Journal of High Technology Law


I. Introduction

In 2015, over 54 million people visited the Walt Disney World resort. (1) In 2014, approximately half of guests to Walt Disney World participated in Disney's Magic Band and My Magic+ systems. (2) These systems allow for smoother and more personalized guest experiences by having guests wear the wristbands to serve as their park ticket, room key, and credit card for purchases in the park. (3) Disney advertises these systems as a benefit for the guests, but most visitors to the park do not realize the company is gaining large amounts of detailed information about individual guest behavior. (4)

Critics of this system believe that it is akin to the National Security Agency ("NSA") and "Big Brother." (5) Still, most guests do not mind the "creepiness" of someone tracking their every move when it is a company that will provide them with lasting family vacation memories rather than the government. (6) This distinction makes sense until you consider one fact: Walt Disney World ("Disney World") has its own government. (7) By establishing their own government structure in order to allow for easier innovation and less government red tape, Walt Disney World has blurred lines between the public and private spheres. (8) This makes it difficult to establish how exactly to apply privacy law to the Magic Band system. (9)

Additionally, as more and more companies and industries find ways to integrate technology like the Magic Band system into their business structures, conflicts with privacy law will arise more frequently. (10) Both private industries, such as fashion retailers and department stores, as well as public entities, such as states' departments of transportation have started to implement Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in their respective industries. (11) While implementing RFiD technology can have tremendous benefits for the organizations that choose to make use of it, its use also poses an array of privacy concerns. (12) Attempts to address these concerns through technology-specific legislation have been relatively unsuccessful. (13) Users of RFID technology need to implement their own policies in order to protect the privacy of average consumers and protect themselves from invasion of privacy litigation. (14)

This Note will attempt to resolve some of these legal ambiguities by analyzing the unique problem posed by Disney World's Magic Band system. First, this Note will discuss when a private entity may qualify as a state actor. This note will then look to the evolution of privacy laws both in the state actor context and under the tort of invasion of privacy. Second, this Note will present the unique history and development of Disney World's form of government. Then, this Note will illustrate the intricacies of the Magic Band system and how it presents various privacy concerns. Next this Note will analyze whether Walt Disney World should be classified as a state actor. Finally, this Note will discuss how privacy law should be applied to the Magic Band system in light of the state actor classification.

II. History

A. When is a Private Entity a State Actor?

Whether or not a private entity is considered a state actor will determine how privacy law is applied to a given situation. (15) The Constitution only protects an individual from the infringement of rights by a state actor, not individual citizens or private organizations. (16) Therefore, in asserting a violation of a constitutionally protected right, the court must first establish whether the alleged violator is a state actor. (17) This determination generally rests on how closely intertwined the government and private actors are in light of the particular facts of the case. (18) While there have been many theories on the best way to consolidate the precedent on state action, as John Niles, Lauren Tribble and Jennifer Wimsatt articulate, the doctrine can generally be broken down into three basic steps. …

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