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Disney Now Scans the Fingers of 3-Year-Old Kids

Preview of Disneyland Ahead of OpeningPreview of Disneyland Ahead of Opening
A child wears Mickey Mouse hands at Walt Disney Co.'s Shanghai Disneyland theme park during a trial run ahead of its official opening, in Shanghai, China, on Wednesday, June 8, 2016. Qilai Shen — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Disney, in a bid to snuff out customers sharing tickets, is now asking for tiny tykes to put their wee fingers in a scanning machine before they can enter the Magic Kingdom.

It makes sense, but it’s still a little creepy.

The new policy is an expansion of Disney’s existing finger-scanning program (“Ticket Tag” in Disney parlance) used to admit people 10 and over to theme parks and water parks. Now, the program applies to children’s tickets for those between the ages of three and nine. A person close to Disney (DIS) said the new policy began in August and is part of the company’s efforts to reduce ticket fraud.

While some might find there is something decidedly un-magical about scanning little children, the policy also concerns about biometric data: Will Disney hold on to those prints so as to identify the kids for the rest of their lives?

Fortunately, the company makes pretty clear it does not do that. Instead, the Ticket Tag system works by using a fingerprint to create a temporary numerical token used to validate re-entry—Disney is not collecting or storing biometric data. (The Disney fan site “AllEars” has a more detailed explanation.) The company will also let people opt out and, in the case of children, allow parents to act as a proxy.

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There is also the question, though, if these polices might lead a slippery slope as the use of biometric technology (everything from fingerprints to voice to body heat) becomes used by more and more companies as a way to authenticate identities. If little children become accustomed to this at places like Disney, will they even question the technology later on?

For now, though, the more pressing question may be whether the surge in technology at Disney theme parks is undermining the sort of childhood wonder the place is supposed to invoke. I haven’t been to a Disney park in decades, but to get an idea of how things have change, be sure to read my colleague Dan Primack’s account of his recent visit with his daughter: “Disney’s tech innovation is my nightmare.”

This story was updated at 1:50pm ET to note customers may out of the finger scans.