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Thanks to MoviePass app tracking, CEO claims, ‘We know all about you’

Mar 06, 20183 mins
Mobile SecurityPrivacySecurity

MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe revealed the app tracks users before and after going to the movies.

moviepass app
Credit: IDG Worldwide

For $7.95 per month, a yearly total of $105.35 by the time you add in a processing fee, MoviePass promises subscribers “unlimited access to movies in theaters.” In return for the service, which would allow subscribers to see one movie per day, those people give up a chunk of their privacy via the app’s tracking.

Put another way by MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe, “We know all about you.”

At the Entertainment Finance Forum, Lowe gave a keynote address called “Data is the New Oil: How Will MoviePass Monetize It?” According to Media Play News, Lowe added:

“We get an enormous amount of information,” he said, noting the company knows subscribers’ addresses and can glean demographic information based on where they live. The company also can track subs via the app and a phone GPS.

“We watch how you drive from home to the movies,” he said. “We watch where you go afterwards.”

The tracking is part of MoviePass’s “bigger vision” to “build a night at the movies.”

The comments by Lowe, who was an early Netflix executive and also later served as president of Redbox, sparked outrage among subscribers. It’s certainly not mentioned in the company’s privacy policy.

As TechCrunch pointed out, location tracking mentions “only a ‘single request’ when selecting a theater, which will ‘only be used as a means to develop, improve, and personalize the service.’ Which part of development requires them to track you before and after you see the movie?”

Let MoviePass’s backtracking begin

Trying to put out fires, MoviePass claims its CEO’s comments were taken out of context. A MoviePass spokesperson issued this statement as a response to publications:

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.

5 million paid MoviePass subscribers by the end of 2018

While some have questioned if MoviePass’s business model would be sustainable, its current userbase of more than 2 million subscribers is expected to reach 5 million paid subscribers by the end of the year. Lowe claimed the service already accounts for 6 percent of movie ticket purchases, and 50 percent of MoviePass subscribers are millennials.

The goal, Lowe said, is to “reenergize moviegoing to the movie theater,” since theaters failed to innovate. “We’ve essentially just copied the Netflix model but in the theatrical window.”

According to Media Play News, Lowe explained, “In 1999 at Netflix when we came up with the disc by mail, all-you-can-eat program, we eliminated late fees that Blockbuster had built their business on, and removing that anxiety got people to consume documentaries and foreign films that they never would have rented from Blockbuster. And that’s what we’re doing [at MoviePass]. We’re kind of providing movie insurance.”

“[MoviePass’s $9.95 a month] may seem like it’s a deal too good to be true,” he said. “That’s what they said about us at Netflix. That’s what they said about us at Redbox.”

If subscribers aren’t creeped out by the app’s tracking, then MoviePass might grow to 5 million subscribers by the end of 2018.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.