Bigfoot data: Disney patent to track visitors by their shoes

Tracking you by your shoes is just the beginning. Could "The Happiest Place on Earth" become "The Safest Place on Earth"?

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We are truly in the era of all-encompassing analytics. Today, everything you click on, everything you post, where you go, what you purchase, and who you’re connected to are all data points to be captured, categorized, cross-indexed, tabulated, and analyzed. “O! M! G!” you may be muttering “Will surveillance never end?” Sure it will end. When hell freezes over. Nope, the surveillance cat is out of the bag, the monitoring pigeon has flown the coup, and the privacy bridge has been burnt. Welcome to the future. 

As if to underline that reality, the latest foray into quantifying you, has just been patented by Disney. In a recent filing titled System and method using foot recognition to create a customized guest experience, the company that bought you “a people trap run by a rat” (I kid you with love, Disney) has raised (lowered?) the bar on knowing who you are by proposing that they will track you by looking at ... wait for it ... your footwear.

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According to the patent’s summary:

The present disclosure discloses a system and method for creating a customized guest experience at an amusement park. In one example, the method includes capturing by a foot sensor a first foot shape corresponding to at least one foot in a pair of feet of a guest and capturing by a camera a first foot appearance corresponding to at least one foot in the first pair of feet receiving guest data from the guest. The method also includes generating a first foot model using the first foot shape and the first foot appearance and tagging the first foot model with the guest data. The foot model can be used to identify a particular guest and the guest data can be used to output a customized guest experience to the guest.

I love the phrase"disclosure discloses" ... only a lawyer could write that without feeling existential pain.

Anyway, a “customized guest experience” sounds like it could be a good thing until you realize the horrendous truth; that along with the ID’ing and tracking will go deep data mining to "understand" you (when you buy your ticket, they’ll run a background check, find and analyze your social media accounts, analyze your social graph, and build a detailed profile of you) then when you're there, they'll subject you to behavioral monitoring and analytics (they’ll sic deep learning-driven systems on you to decode your body language and figure out what you’re showing interest in via realtime visual and audio surveillance) as they use predictive analytics to manipulate your attention and behavior to optimize not only your -- shall we call it -- “experience,” but also to maximize your spend. 

And just imagine when they start using terahertz scanners (which are becoming more practical with every passing day). They’ll be able to figure out from the aromatic molecules you exhale what foods you eat then use directed, air-borne matching scents tailored for you to lure you into their restaurants when you are optimally hungry but not overly tired (otherwise you might leave in a food coma before spending the maximum amount on chotskies).  

Frightening? Sure. But on the other hand, there is a plus side: Having such in-depth, real time insights into the background, motivation, behavior, and mental state of “guests” would mean that crazies and "bad guys" of all kinds could be easily spotted, allowing Disney’s vaunted security apparatus to swing into action. Given the rising frequency of mass shootings and random acts of terrorism, perhaps the future of Disneyland is to evolve from “The Happiest Place on Earth” to “The Safest Place on Earth.” And it all starts with footwear.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.