Sunday, July 24, 2005

Mickey Mouse is Not Big Brother

We are engaged in a battle for hearts in minds not only in the middle east, but here at home. Liberals are faced with the task of convincing those who do not follow the liberal blogs that we truly are in danger of losses of liberty due to the policies of our current one-party government. That task is only hampered when liberal bloggers mix paranoid delusions along with real complaints, making it easier for the right to argue we should be ignored.

The report in the Tallahassee Democrat last week on the expansion of the use of finger scanning at Walt Disney World resulted in a number of posts at Democratic Underground and in the blogosphere about perceived threats to civil liberties. I see from the Daou Report that these posts continue. It's time to bring this discussion back to reality.

As an annual pass holder, I've had my fingers scanned at Walt Disney World numerous times over the years with no signs of any limitations on my civil liberties, but with considerable cost savings on park admissions (as well as resort rates). Disney has scanned fingers for the simple purpose of making sure that my annual pass is really being used by me, and not by someone else who is attempting to avoid purchasing their own park admission. The biometric scanner measures the geometry of the fingers to ensure it is really me using the pass, but does not record finger prints as some have feared. Without such security measures, the benefits I receive from the annual passes would not be possible.

Disney is now expanding this policy, and has good reason to do so. Unlike the conventional amusement park, visitors at Walt Disney World typically go back and forth between four different theme parks, resorts, and other attractions such as Downtown Disney, the Boardwalk, and water parks. A pass which allows you to come and go as you please is preferable to paying for a single park admission, and paying again should you desire to enter the same or a different theme park the same day. Disney also sells multi-day passes for a considerable discount over a single day admission. In order to offer these types of passes, it is necessary for Disney to be certain that the same person is using the pass each time. The biometric scanners are a sensible solution to this problem. The Disney will also accept alternative identification, so it is possible for those who really oppose such measures to avoid the biometric scanners. This can also be avoided by purchasing single admission passes which eliminate the need for scanning.

Rather than attacking Disney for a practice which is nonintrusive and which is justified by their business needs, it would make far more sense to monitor for any potential abuses. If Disney were to use this information for any other purpose, or if it were to share it with others, there might be cause for alarm. So far there is no evidence that these scans are used for any nefarious purpose.

Some have also complained of the high level of security present in Disney parks. As a parent, I find their level of security reassuring, and that is one of the reasons I have taken so many vacations there. Nobody has suggested that the security of Disney theme parks should be a model for the rest of the country as a whole, although it is hard to argue that the Disney influence on Time Square also hasn't been for the better.

Some liberal bloggers fear that Americans are being conditioned by these scanners so that they will be more willing to provide finger prints to government agencies in the future. I hate to extrapolate from Walt Disney World to the rest of the country, but for those who wish to I have a more palatable vision. Use of the biometric scanner requires quests to extend their second and third digits. In other words, guests entering Disney parks are encouraged to make a peace sign before entering. I wonder if some conservative bloggers will realize this and fear that Americans are being conditioned to be opposed to war.


Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Ron, the only problem with your argument is that "finger print scans" don't actually prevent anything. Most invasive security apparati (from these scans to "security cameras") are incapable of preventing an attack or crime. Their only function is to abet an investigation after a crime or "terrorist attack" has already occured. The problem is that it's sold to people under the guise of "security", when in fact it's incapable of providing any such thing.

Having returned from Vegas recently (where millions of people move in and out of virtually every casino and hotel on the strip), the only identity I was ever asked to produce was a simple picture ID (and that was rare). Lacking that, people could be denied access to wherever they were trying to go.

The use of biometric scanners (much like the vaunted "finger print driver's license" database) is a ruse. If Disney is so freaked out about a possible attack that they need a piece of your DNA to get in to their parks, then perhaps such large entertainment institutions should be shuttered in the name of "security".

I'm a parent as well and security of my kids is of utmost importance. But fingerprinting people? I'll pass.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Ron Chusid said...


You misunderstand on a couple of counts.

First, per your last paragraph, this is not a fingerprint.

Secondly, the purpose has nothing to do with terrorist attacks. It is purely to make sure that who ever uses a pass one time is the same person using it the next time. The system does work for that purpose.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Ron Chusid said...

In addition to my responses above, if you'd prefer to present photo ID, Disney is willing to accept that instead of the biometric scanners.

For people staying on a resort and not driving, the biometric scanner is much more convenient. I keep my wallet locked up back at the room, but I always have my fingers handy.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...


If the alternative of a photo ID is given, then I don't have much of a problem with it. Some people do choose not to carry their wallets, etc. so it makes sense, in that sense.

I understand about the pass situation, but it still seems like an extreme measure to ensure that passes aren't being, er, passed around to people who shouldn't be using them. The biometric technology may not be taking the entire print, but I guess I'm with the "conservative" paranoid groups on this one. ;> I see this as just one more step in the erosion of privacy in the name of security.

BTW, congrats on the other site. I put up a link on my blog to it. Should I just start posting over there, or are you going to continue this Unofficial blog as well?

6:02 AM  
Blogger Ron Chusid said...


You said, " The biometric technology may not be taking the entire print."

It's not even a case of not taking an entire finger print. The biometric scans don't record any portion of the finger print at all. They measure the geometry of the fingers. It is no where as unique an identifier as finger prints and would be of little use if someone tried to abuse the system and extend it beyond Disney parks. It is sufficient to make it more difficult to use someone else's pass.

6:17 AM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...


I'm well aware of the technology in question. Biometric hand and finger geometry recognition has been around a long time. I use it regularly when I go to my university workout facility and have since 1998.

Regardless, a database of hand geometry recognition is kept on every user and easily shared and accessible by others with similar technology. Its algorithms are exactly the same as other biometric technology like fingerprints. Not to mention, it has failure rate of 0.1%. That's almost as accurate as fingerprints themselves.

Has Disney ever said if the database is purged regularly? Is it shared with anyone else? Does the user have the right to reject the sharing of the scans?

At the end of the day, I still think it's an intrusive measure. And I bitch about it every time I go to work out.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Ron Chusid said...


There have been absolutley no reports of any sharing of the scan information in any of the published complaints about this.

I see using the scans for their own purposes with passes and sharing such information as two separate issues. I would oppose any sharing of the information. What I disagree with is a blanket objection to the biometric scanning regardless of whether there is any abuse (such as sharing the information).

I also question how much use this informaiton would be on a wide scale. It is hardly as definitive a way to identify someone as finger prints. They can tell that someone using someone else's passes is not the same person who used the pass initiially, but simply scanning someone will not tell them who a given person is.

11:49 AM  

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