Disney Park Trains Youth for a “Surveillance State,” Experts Say

in Disney, Disney Parks, Shanghai Disneyland, Walt Disney World

Disney surveillance state shown with roller coaster on right, security and cameras on left, with a happy Mickey mouse in the center

Credit: Disney / Pixabay: JohannesW | Nicholas_Demetriades | RyanMcGuire

In a move that recalls Minority Report and 1984, scholars have proven that Disney is training children to be part of a surveillance state.

mickey Mouse with a Disney Parks security Cast Member inspecting a Guest's bag
Credit: Inside the Magic

Disney World: United States Surveillance Technology

There is a long history of Disney digital surveillance, a way to keep property and guests safe and hold staff accountable. But the idea of surveillance technology calls on thoughts of China’s Communist Party, issues of public security, and how much leeway any given National Security Agency has (or ought to have).

A guest using their MagicBand to access the TRON lockers
Credit: Disney

Technofuturism as Frontier Technology

Researchers out of the University of Illinois studied the impacts of Disney surveillance, showing that the world of play normalizes the idea of social control. While the Human Rights Watch continues to monitor the levels of surveillance, this study shows that it is a new era in which youth grow to accept the standards of being observed.

Security officer with Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission -- BREAKOUT! and Sleeping Beauty Castle in the background
Credit: Inside the Magic

Walt Disney World: A Surveillance State?

Without a doubt, Walt Disney is on the cutting edge of surveillance and technology in the United States. It has plenty of patents and collaborates with United States entities to conduct surveillance. It gathers data about the millions of yearly visitors.

Walt Disney World has dealt with Chinese companies in the past, along with those from the United States. In keeping with the law, it collaborates with government agencies for issues such as public health or concerns relating to safety and regulation. Through the use of security cameras and more advanced tracking, such as the MagicBands, technology (and the surveillance power it offers) is just a part of the new era.

A young girl taps her Magic Band against a Cast Member's phone.
Credit: Disney

What the Surveillance Study Means for Youth

Today’s young grow up in a world long distanced from the Cold War and are battered with dark news, ranging from the Chinese surveillance state to artificial intelligence risks to war. The spirit of civil liberties is strong amongst many generations, yet a digital utopia that integrates social media and artificial intelligence is a thing of reality.

The study shows that Disney “uses it to explore information governance challenges associated with pervasive location monitoring, facial recognition, data integration across contexts” and more. In effect, it uses everything from CCTV cameras to RFID tracking to create a full-service surveillance system.

An aerial photo of Disney Springs with a circular photo frame of a Disney security guard to the right of the image.
Credit: Edited by Inside The Magic

Concerns Related to a Surveillance State in Walt Disney World

The digital world is inherently interconnected, and while state surveillance is likely not at the forefront of a theme park tourist’s mind, it is a real issue (especially for those growing up not realizing the risks). It’s one thing to show up on surveillance cameras. It’s another to risk a high-level data leak, something of which the FTC already proved Disney guilty.

Understanding the risks and knowing your rights as a citizen is important to functioning in the United States and defending civil liberties. Yet Disney operates as private companies do, with the right to (within the law), gather data.

Attendance is consent. So, as scholars have proven that surveillance is only growing stronger, it’s important to understand the difference between reality and augmentation.

What do you think about Walt Disney World being used as a surveillance state? Share your comments below!

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