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MoviePass says it’s ‘exploring’ gathering location data on users, but it won’t sell it

MoviePass responded late this evening to a number of reports calling into question the company’s privacy policy after CEO Mitch Lowe publicly claimed the theater subscription service tracks its users’ locations. A spokesperson for the company clarified that MoviePass has no intentions to sell this data, and the company at the moment is only “exploring” utilizing location-based marketing as a way to “enhance the overall experience by creating more opportunities” for subscribers to “enjoy all the various elements of a good movie night.”

Use of location-based data is mentioned only once in MoviePass’ privacy policy, which says a user’s location is checked only to verify whether they are in fact nearby the specified theater they intend to purchase a movie ticket from.

The controversy arose from a talk featuring Lowe, as part of the MoviePass CEO’s keynote at the Entertainment Finance Forum in Los Angeles late last week. “We get an enormous amount of information,” Lowe told the crowd, according to a report from Media Play News published on March 2nd. “We watch how you drive from home to the movies… [and] we watch where you go afterwards.” The quotes caused alarm among technology journalists and MoviePass subscribers, some of whom took to Twitter to decry the service’s use of personal data.

MoviePass, in its statement, says the data it wants to collect is intended to help inform the company’s understanding of the overall moviegoing experience, including how users get to the movie theater and where they may eat out before or after the film. “We will use [the data] to better inform how to market potential customer benefits including discounts on transportation, coupons for nearby restaurants, and other similar opportunities,” the statement reads.

Lowe himself mentioned this during his talk at the Entertainment Finance Forum, saying one of MoviePass’ long-term goals is to create a pipeline of discounts and other business partnerships that grant the company a cut of third-party revenues, to account for the loss it may be taking on ticket stubs. MoviePass has already partnered with some independent theater chains for a cut on ticket revenue and food and drink sales, something the company is reportedly wants from larger chains like AMC.

Just last week, MoviePass mysteriously prevented users in select markets from buying tickets to see Red Sparrow, while promoting the movie to subscribers in other markets. That suggests MoviePass is also looking into using email and app-based marketing as a way to cut promotional deals with studios, and may have tested a Red Sparrow blackout to bolster its claims that it drives a significant amount of traffic to movies it actively promotes.

Still, this confusion around its location tracking isn’t a great look for MoviePass, which may have trouble escaping the ire of privacy advocates who feel the company has stepped out of line by even proposing a data-based monetization strategy that tracks users’ habits outside the theater. Granted, there’s no indication the company does this now, or that it will not update its privacy policy to make clear when it starts doing so. It will be hard, however, to undue the perception Lowe’s comments have created.

Here’s MoviePass’ statement in full:

At MoviePass our vision is to build a complete night out at the movies. 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 opportunities. Our larger goal is to deliver a complete moviegoing experience at a price anyone can afford and everyone can enjoy.


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