I’ve received a helpful letter from someone with more details on how Disney’s finger scanning technology works. It appears I was mis-informed about all the data being stored on the magnetic strip portion of the card, just the identifying info for the card is stored there. But putting more information than that on them is not practical:
Basically the cards require a special type of machine to write the magnetic data, much like the machines used to create credit cards and drivers licenses. The turn-styles themselves only have the ability to read data off of the magnetic strip, not write to it. The magnetic strip only has enough room for a few bytes of data anyway.
There’s also some more interesting information on how you might be able to get around Disney’s one person, one card rule. I’ve heard of someone ‘losing’ their card, getting a new one issued with no associated finger info, then trading that one to a new owner. This works best if you don’t sign the card infront of the cast member who issues you a new one.
It does make since that you would still be able to ‘switch’ the cards though. When a new ticket is issued it has a different ticket number because the old ticket is voided out, thus separate finger data is associated with it. This is also the reason the machines are sometimes slow of break down. If they lost communication with the ticket data server, that can’t validate the authenticity of the ticket or the finger dimensions. Every turn-style, fast pass machine, and ticket sales computer, guest relations computer, and numerous other systems all read from this same ticketing database.
Another reason for not storing any more information on the ticket itself is that it would make them easier to counterfeit. With the right software and equipment one could just write their own ‘blank’ tickets for anyone to use. With the data stored centrally, one would have to actually have access to that server to change the data on it.
Hopefully this sheds a little more light on the finger scanning process, exactly what the ticket machines can and can’t do. Does it make me feel like my privacy is being invaded. No, I don’t think so. I’m actually happy that they can track how often I’m at the park, what my favorite fastpass rides are, etc. Someday that might add up to better customer service for guests like me.