movie theater

Is MoviePass Tracking Your Location? Yep – They Sure Are!

watching movies

I’ve been a fan of MoviePass until I heard this – they are actually able to track your location through their app.  And they are.  Mitch Lowe said “we get an enormous amount of information.  We watch how you drive from home to the movies.  We watch where you go afterward”.  Which makes you wonder – does the cheap cost of the service make up for the invasion of privacy?  I honestly think this is a hard one to answer.  I mean, you get the service for $8 or $10 a month and you can watch an unlimited amount of movies.  But on the other hand, if they’re watching where I’m going, maybe I should be concerned?

And what’s worse – these advanced location tracking features aren’t included in the company’s privacy policy.  Instead, they mention a “single request” when you select a theatre.  The intent is for it to be used “only as a means to develop, improve, and personalize the service”. And the worst part?  (If it can get worse) Lowe is talking extremely candidly about this feature.  In fact, he made remarks about this during a keynote at the Entertainment Finance Forum last week.  The presentation that he gave was titled Data is the New Oil: How Will MoviePass Monetize It?

gps tracking

Honestly, this kind of makes me sick.  Maybe not that they’re tracking people because I think that’s becoming more “normal”. (I’m not saying I agree with that, but it’s our reality)  But the fact that he’s bragging about it. I do often joke about “Big Brother” watching you, but typically in reference to the government.  Which may or may not be worse, if I’m being honest.

Let’s talk about the why for a moment.  Lowe claims that their bigger vision is to build a night at the movies.  By invading your privacy, they will be able to get information that can be used for demographics.  So you’re going to know where I go for dinner, after the movie?  You’re going to know where I live?  And how does that help “build” a movie experience?  Especially because it’s MoviePass and not the theater themselves.  Recently, I attended a movie, and the theater itself had some pretty good food options.  But that was theater.  How can MoviePass get in on that action when they’re just a service?  Can they build a deal with the theater itself to have better food concessions? I think that’s the goal of the theater, isn’t it?

gps tracking

Here’s the good news – two days after this started making headlines, MoviePass has issued an update for their iOS app.  According to reports, the app contains “Theater & Movie Search performance improvements”.  Which means, they’ve removed the app location tracking capability.  Now, this doesn’t necessarily tell us how they were using this data beyond what is described in their privacy policy, but at least this is a good start.  Is this good enough, though?  I mean, Lowe went on quite the tirade indicating how “great” of a feature this is, and how beneficial it will be to MoviePass.  But like we (and others) have reported, it’s not exactly known to people and is, therefore, kind of shady.