MoviePass CEO now says app never tracked user location

Posted:
in iPhone edited March 12
MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe appears to be backpedaling on recent comments that suggested the movie-a-day app continuously tracks users' locations after they visit a theater, saying in a new interview that he was mistaken in what data his company gleans from customers.




Lowe in an interview with Variety on Monday said his earlier statements regarding the MoviePass app's location gathering capabilities were incorrect.

"I said something completely inaccurate as far as what we are doing," Lowe said. "We only locate customers when they use the app." He added, "If you get in your car and drive five miles, we don't know where you are or where you are going."

The last sentiment appears to be a direct rebuttal of comments Lowe made at the Entertainment Finance Forum earlier this month in his talk "Data is the New Oil: How will MoviePass Monetize It?"

"We get an enormous amount of information," Lowe said at the event. "We watch how you drive from home to the movies. We watch where you go afterwards, and so we know the movies you watch. We know all about you."

As expected, the remarks raised the ire of privacy advocates. According to Lowe, however, only a "half a dozen" customers cancelled their subscriptions over privacy concerns.

MoviePass attempted to salvage Lowe's apparent mixup in a follow-up statement to media outlets, saying the company is "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."

In clarifying what data MoviePass does collect, Lowe today said the app only accesses a device's onboard GPS or positioning subsystem when a user searches for a nearby participating theater and when they check in to a theater. The methodology is more in line with company's privacy policy, which states location data is collected in a "single request" when a user selects a theater.

Two days after Lowe's initial comments came to light, MoviePass removed an "unused app location capability" in an update to its iOS app. The changes were made in consultation with Apple, Variety reports.

Prior to the update, MoviePass used all three of Apple's default location access settings, including "never," "while using the app," and "always." According to Lowe, MoviePass never utilized the "always" setting, saying, "We never used it, and it was confusing to have it there."

If and when MoviePass decides to implement location tracking for its movie night experience, the company will ask users to opt in or opt out of the feature, Lowe said.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,133member
    “Hi I’m Mitch, I have no idea what my company does!”


    yeah right.
    SpamSandwichStrangeDays
  • Reply 2 of 12
    chasmchasm Posts: 997member
    Somebody’s fighting to save his job.

    I doubt it’s going to work ...
  • Reply 3 of 12
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,408member
    That can be interrupted in different ways. If you define tracking as looking at and recording your location point-after-point then that isn't how the app works since the default setting in Location Services has always been Only While Using the App. Maybe it would if you kept the app opening the entire time but that's not likely.

    Now, if you define tracking a user location as even a single point, then they clearly do that as the app needs to know you're within 100 yards of your theater in order to allow you to select a film for your theater. This is a basic measure to help keep the system from being abused.

    MoviePass 8 months strong and at $7 a month (yes, per month, as I bought the annual fee.), it's an amazing service. If they wanted me to watch a stupid ad video and complete a survey after each movie before I used it again I'd do considering how much money this is saving me over regular ticket prices.
    cornchip
  • Reply 4 of 12
    berndogberndog Posts: 69member
    Love the graphic!  :D
  • Reply 5 of 12
    Those statements seem oddly specific to have been in error. It's also pretty unbelievable that such a large misconception could be held by the CEO of a company.

    A simpler explanation would be that he didn't anticipate that such bragging would have had significant consequences, both in users removing the application and potentially receiving scrutiny from Apple.
    StrangeDayscornchip
  • Reply 6 of 12
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,468member
    One face for potential investors. 
    Another face for his customers. 

    Think I’ll give it a miss. 
    StrangeDayscornchip
  • Reply 7 of 12
    Rayz2016 said:
    One face for potential investors. 
    Another face for his customers. 

    That's the American business model.

    Mildly disappointed that the CEO hasn't blamed CNN (somehow) for the "misunderstanding." Doing so would have ensured hisses and boos and quick acceptance on the part of techie boyz.
  • Reply 8 of 12
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 6,070member
    "We watch how you drive from home to the movies. We watch where you go afterwards, and so we know the movies you watch. We know all about you."

    ...in what world did he think that didnt sound utterly creepy and 
    undesirable? As CEO having his finger on the pulse of his customers is part of his job. Knowing what is creepy and what is not creepy. Sounds like he's not a very good CEO... That, or users of the service aren't his customers and are just part of their product.
    edited March 13
  • Reply 9 of 12
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 1,911member
    Soli said:
    That can be interrupted in different ways. If you define tracking as looking at and recording your location point-after-point then that isn't how the app works since the default setting in Location Services has always been Only While Using the App. Maybe it would if you kept the app opening the entire time but that's not likely.

    Now, if you define tracking a user location as even a single point, then they clearly do that as the app needs to know you're within 100 yards of your theater in order to allow you to select a film for your theater. This is a basic measure to help keep the system from being abused.

    MoviePass 8 months strong and at $7 a month (yes, per month, as I bought the annual fee.), it's an amazing service. If they wanted me to watch a stupid ad video and complete a survey after each movie before I used it again I'd do considering how much money this is saving me over regular ticket prices.
    As a LONG TIME MoviePass subscriber, by a few years, where I started out at $35 a month, and it wasn't long ago that prices went up to $45 a month. Then all of a sudden it dropped down to these new prices and so I'm paying $9.95 a month. At that price, you're a sucker to not sign up. 1 ticket a month pays for the service and you're either breaking even there or already saving money on that first ticket. MoviePass used to use Discover Card for their Cards until a while back ago switching to Master Card. Ya, the App was already set to only track when it's running. I would normally start it up once I'm at the theater. Buying the ticket, they already know where you are anyway from buying the ticket, more more importantly from using the App to activate the card. You are in effect though the app, telling it what theater you're going to. What movie you are going to see and at what time. So really, it's info they would already have anyway. Once the app is pushed off screen for whatever else, it's NOT tracking you. This all was just so blown up.
    cornchip
  • Reply 10 of 12
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 6,070member
    So I'm curious about the service and am reading their FAQ. It says it works like this:

    1. Before you head to the theater, search the app for movies, theaters and showtimes to make sure your choice is available on MoviePass. 
    2. Head to the theater. When you arrive at your chosen theater, use the app select your movie and showtime (at the theater you are located), and click the “Check In” button that appears. (Note: you must be within 100 yards of the theater to check in).
    3. Upon check-in your MoviePass card will be activated. Just swipe the card with a ticket agent or at a theater kiosk to get your ticket!

    ...for #1, so how often is a desired movie not available on MP? For #2, you have to drive out to the theater to check-in -- how often do you get there and find you can't check-in?

    Perhaps less of an issue with the big AMC chains, but my network theater is a smaller indy.

    edited March 13
  • Reply 11 of 12
    So I'm curious about the service and am reading their FAQ. It says it works like this:

    1. Before you head to the theater, search the app for movies, theaters and showtimes to make sure your choice is available on MoviePass. 
    2. Head to the theater. When you arrive at your chosen theater, use the app select your movie and showtime (at the theater you are located), and click the “Check In” button that appears. (Note: you must be within 100 yards of the theater to check in).
    3. Upon check-in your MoviePass card will be activated. Just swipe the card with a ticket agent or at a theater kiosk to get your ticket!

    ...for #1, so how often is a desired movie not available on MP? For #2, you have to drive out to the theater to check-in -- how often do you get there and find you can't check-in?

    Perhaps less of an issue with the big AMC chains, but my network theater is a smaller indy.

    On #1, Not Often. The only movies that are not available at a theater are 3D, IMAX, Dolby Cinema, and Old movies that come back for their Anniversary (like Dark Crystal just did their 25th anniversary). 
    On #2, the only time I had a problem checking in was on Christmas Holiday weekend. The servers were swamped, but not a problem otherwise.
    urashid
  • Reply 12 of 12
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,408member
    So I'm curious about the service and am reading their FAQ. It says it works like this:

    1. Before you head to the theater, search the app for movies, theaters and showtimes to make sure your choice is available on MoviePass. 
    2. Head to the theater. When you arrive at your chosen theater, use the app select your movie and showtime (at the theater you are located), and click the “Check In” button that appears. (Note: you must be within 100 yards of the theater to check in).
    3. Upon check-in your MoviePass card will be activated. Just swipe the card with a ticket agent or at a theater kiosk to get your ticket!

    ...for #1, so how often is a desired movie not available on MP? For #2, you have to drive out to the theater to check-in -- how often do you get there and find you can't check-in?

    Perhaps less of an issue with the big AMC chains, but my network theater is a smaller indy.
    I'm not near an IMAX (but I don't care for IMAX) and I don't care for 3D movies so I've never had an issue with a movie not being available.

    Additionally, I've never used the app outside of the range of the movie theater to check movie times. Not that it's a bad option and I should probably ditch the Flixster app I've had on my iPhone for 9(?) years now, but I just ask Alexa to tell me what's playing and what times if I'm doing busy work around the house or (most likely) just hit my Safari bookmark on my Mac to see a list of movie times.

    Surprisingly, a 3 screen theater that usually does independent, artsy, and foreign film started taking MoviePass a few months ago. This was surprising to me because they've always been only ever accepted cash and check and yet now they'll accept the MoviePass MasterCard. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I assume they now take debit and credit cards, but I haven't been back there since they've only been showing the academy award nominee as of late, which I caught in other theater with stadium seatings with reclining seats.

    Except for those handful of AMC theaters that MoviePass has excluded, the theaters seem to like MoviePass since it's bring in more ticket sales, and since users feel like they're getting the movie for free they're more likely to buy concessions or more concessions as a result, at least from what I've heard, even thought that's not the case for me a I gave up getting expensive junk food at the movies about the same time I got on board with MoviePass—just a coincidence.
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