Disturbing facts

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    Disney scanning raises eyebrows
    - AP

    Walt Disney World, which bills itself as one of the happiest and
    most magical places anywhere, also may be one of the most closely
    watched and secure. The nation's most popular tourist attraction is
    beginning to scan your fingerprint information.

    For years, Disney has recorded onto tickets the geometry and shape
    of visitors' fingers to prevent ticket fraud or resale, as an
    alternative to time-consuming photo identification checks.

    By the end of the month, all of the geometry readers at Disney's
    four Orlando theme parks will be replaced with machines that scan
    fingerprint information, according to industry experts familiar with
    the technology. The four parks attract tens of millions of visitors
    each year.

    "It's essentially a technology upgrade," said Kim Prunty,
    spokeswoman for Walt Disney World. The new scanner, like the old
    finger geometry scanner, "takes an image, identifies a series of
    points, measures the distance between those points, and turns it
    into a numerical value."

    She added, "To call it a fingerprint is a little bit of a stretch."

    Privacy advocates disagree. They believe Disney has not fully
    disclosed the purpose of its new system. There are no signs posted
    at the entrances detailing what information is being collected and
    how it is being used. Attendants at the entrances will explain the
    system, if asked.

    "The lack of transparency has always been a problem," said Lillie
    Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information
    Center. She said Disney's use of the technology "fails a
    proportionality test" by requiring too much personal information for
    access to roller coasters.

    "What they're doing is taking a technology that was used to control
    access to high-level security venues and they're applying it to
    controlling access to a theme park," Coney said.

    George Crossley, president of the Central Florida ACLU, said, "It's
    impossible for them to convince me that all they are getting is the
    fact that that person is the ticket-holder."

    Disney's Prunty downplayed privacy issues, saying the scanned
    information is stored "independent of all of our other systems" and
    "the system purges it 30 days after the ticket expires or is fully
    utilized." Visitors who object to the readers can provide photo
    identification instead - although the option is not advertised at
    park entrances.

    She said the new system will be easier for people to use and will
    reduce wait times. The old machines required visitors to insert two
    fingers into a reader that identified key information about the
    shape of the fingers. The new machines scan one fingertip for its
    fingerprint information. Prunty said the company does not store the
    entire fingerprint image, but only numerical information about
    certain points.

    The technology ensures that multiday passes are not resold, Prunty
    said. A one-day, one-park ticket to Walt Disney World costs $67,
    but the daily price falls dramatically for a 10-day pass. She said
    multiday pricing is the reason for the scanners. "It's very
    important that a guest who purchases the ticket is the guest who
    uses it," she said.

    Scanning fingerprint information isn't new to private businesses or
    the government, which scans fingerprints of visitors entering the

    After the Sept. 11 attacks, the federal government sought out
    Disney's advice in intelligence, security and biometrics, a tool
    that teaches computers to recognize and identify individuals based
    on their unique characteristics.

    The government may have wanted Disney's expertise because Walt
    Disney World has the nation's largest single commercial application
    of biometrics, said Jim Wayman, director of the National Biometric
    Test Center at San Jose State University.

    "The government was very aware of what Disney was doing," he said.

    Industry insiders say Disney has expressed interest in an even more
    advanced form of biometric technology - automated face recognition.
    It has been touted as a way to pick criminals and terrorists out of
    a crowd.

    Minnesota-based Identix Inc., which has contracts with the State
    Department and the Department of Homeland Security, has been in
    contact with Disney.

    Another company, California-based A4Vision Inc., confirmed meeting
    with Disney officials in the past year to present its A4 facial
    recognition system. "They were interested," said A4Vision
    spokeswoman Suzanne Mattick. A4Vision is funded in part by the
    Defense Department and In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture capital firm for
    new technologies.

    Prunty, however, said face recognition is "not something we're
    currently looking at."

    Although Disney will not disclose who makes its fingerprint
    scanners, biometrics experts said the new technology is likely
    provided by New Mexico-based Lumidigm Inc.

    That company also has received funding from the CIA as well as the
    National Security Agency and the Defense Department, according to
    founder and CEO Bob Harbour.

    Harbour did not confirm or deny the company's role as the provider
    of Disney's new scanners but said it has a "major theme park" as a

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