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MoviePass CEO: ‘We Watch How You Drive from Home to the Movies’

Movie Pass App Iphone Ap Darron Cummings

Image via AP / Darron Cummings

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MoviePass’s premise, letting users see a movie a day for only $10 a month, may sound too good to be true. As it turns out, it probably is.

The service still only costs $10 a month, but there’s a catch. Namely, it’s the fact that MoviePass is planning on collecting its users’ location data and wants to use that data to make money. But the firm is being weirdly transparent — even proud — about it.

“We get an enormous amount of information. We watch how you drive from home to the movies. We watch where you go afterwards,” MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe told an audience at the Entertainment Finance Forum in Hollywood, according to TechCrunch.

While Lowe’s recent comments were a revelation to some, the firm has never really been secretive about how it plans to make money. For one, MoviePass is owned by a data analytics firm named Helios and Matheson Analytics, Inc.

And in an interview with Recode in February, Lowe equated his firm’s business plan to the way that Facebook makes money — monetizing its users’ data.

“Netflix buys $8 billion of content a year, and believe me, they have to borrow the money to do it,” Lowe told Recode. “Or companies like Facebook — it’s free, but they’re monetizing all the advertising and all the data about you. That’s exactly what we are (doing).”

But while MoviePass has been strangely open about its revenue schemes, TechCrunch points out that users may still have been unaware of the scope of its data-collection efforts. Information like ticket sales and movie choice seem like a no-brainer, but the fact that MoviePass collects detailed location data before and after seeing a movie may be off-putting to some.

It’s worth noting that the MoviePass privacy policy doesn’t make any mention of ongoing location tracking. It only states that the app requires location access when selecting a local theater. Beyond that, the privacy policy states that MoviePass will make a “single” request for location coordinates. Because of that, it isn’t clear whether Lowe’s comments are referring to a secretive initiative or the company’s future plans.

In a statement to The Verge, the firm did note that it was exploring uses location-based marketing to “enhance the overall experience,” but maintained that it had no plans to sell this data to third-parties — at least, not currently.

How to Control Data Collection

Luckily, iOS users can combat data collection at the operating system level for MoviePass, or any app. Users can tweak their settings by going to..

  1. Settings.
  2. Privacy.
  3. Location Services.
  4. MoviePass.
  5. Selecting “Never” will stop MoviePass from collecting any location data, while choosing “While Using the App” will only allow location tracking when the app is currently being used (like when making a ticket purchase). Keep in mind, at some point the app could require Location Services to use its service at all.

At $10 a month — less than the price of a single movie ticket across most of the country — MoviePass is still a solid deal. But, of course, that’s only true for users who don’t mind compromising some of their privacy for the sake of watching new films for very little money.

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