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MoviePass Is Tracking Your Location


We were all waiting for the other shoe to drop on the super cheap, all-you-can-watch movie service, and it finally has. In a recent presentation, MoviePass CEO admitted that the app tracks your location before and after you see movies—something that wasn’t clearly disclosed before millions of people signed up for the service.

According to Media Play News, MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe had some interesting things to say during his Hollywood presentation that took place late last week, entitled “New Oil: How Will MoviePass Monetize It?” Most notably, he openly admitted that his app tracks people’s location, even when they’re not actively using the app:
“We get an enormous amount of information… We know all about. We watch how you drive from home to the
movies. We watch where you go afterwards.”
Lowe also commented on how they knew subscribers’ addresses, their demographics, and how they can track subs via the app and the phone’s GPS. This drew nervous laughter from the crowd—many of whom were MoviePass subscribers themselves—but Lowe assured them that this collecting of tracking data fits into their long-term revenue plan. He explained that their vision is to “build a night at the movies,” with MoviePass eventually directing subscribers to places to eat before movies, and places to grab drinks afterward (all for a cut from the vendors).

We knew MoviePass was collecting data on us from the start—that’s how they plan to make their money—so how is this any different? Well, subscribers are claiming they didn’t clearly disclose such persistent location tracking in their privacy policy. In regard to location tracking, the privacy policy mentions a “single request” in a section titled “Check ins” that’s used when you’re selecting a theater and movie to watch. However, the section also mentions real-time location data “as a means to develop, improve and personalize the service.” It’s a vague statement that could mean just about anything, but it’s understandable if users didn’t assume it meant watching them wherever they went, even when they’re not using the app.
These tracking policies may be more thoroughly explained to users elsewhere, but nobody is able to find anything that describes the type of tracking being suggested by Lowe in his statements. Perhaps he was exaggerating? Or talking about future plans? Unlikely. In a statement to TechCrunch, a MoviePass representative basically confirmed the tracking when asked about it, saying:
We are exploring utilizing location-based marketing as a way to help enhance the overall experience by
creating more opportunities for our subscribers to enjoy all the various elements of a good movie night. We
will not be selling the data that we gather. Rather, we will use it to better inform how to market potential
customer benefits including discounts on transportation, coupons for nearby restaurants, and other similar
MoviePass issued a similar statement to The Verge, adding that it’s part of their vision to “build a complete night out at the movies,” and that their larger goal is to “deliver a complete moviegoing experience at a price anyone can afford and everyone can enjoy.”

So, there’s no doubt they’re keeping tabs on MoviePass user locations, but the question is when and for how long? If it makes you feel any better, their privacy policy says they don’t plan to sell personal data like that to anyone. Of course, a quick adjustment to their privacy policy down the line could change all that. But if that happens, at least they’ll inform you of the changes. Their privacy policy states, “Users will be notified in advance, giving you the opportunity to prevent your personal information from being shared.”

At the end of the day, this is yet another question mark added to the “Is MoviePass too good to be true?” question we’ve all been wondering. Hopefully, MoviePass can clear the air soon and give us a better explanation of what’s going on with user location data and why. It would be nice to know what location information is being collected, when it starts tracking users, how long it tracks users after they see a movie, as well as if there’s a way to opt out of that type of location tracking. We’ll update as soon as we learn more.

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