Last week, movie subscription service MoviePass received negative press when CEO Mitch Lowe mentioned that the company watches "how you drive from home to the movies" and notices "where you go afterwards" using location tracking in the background on iOS. This week, through customer support emails and in an interview with Variety, MoviePass and Lowe are apologizing over this "mischaracterization" of how the service locates its members and are trying to clear things up once and for all.
In a letter that began hitting subscriber inboxes yesterday, Lowe admitted the need to "eliminate any misconceptions" that MoviePass is collecting location related data when it shouldn't be. He explained that the MoviePass app uses "standard" location services capabilities on an opt-in basis, and specified that there are only two events that would prompt MoviePass to identify your location: when you perform a search for nearby theaters and when you check into a theater.
Otherwise, Lowe stated that Moviepass does not follow you before or after you watch a movie, or at any time that the app is not open.
MoviePass does not track and has never tracked or collected data on the location of our members at any point when the app is not active.
Last week, following Lowe's comments, the company removed the background tracking capabilities from the iOS app. In the letter, the CEO said that MoviePass "does not use and has never used this feature."
Lowe echoed these sentiments in an interview with Variety, explaining that prior to the update, MoviePass used Apple's three standard privacy tracking options: "Never," "While Using the App," and "Always" -- the option that was removed. In regards to the "Always" tracking capability, Lowe said that because the company never used it, "it was confusing to have it there." Lowe mentioned that MoviePass lost just "half a dozen" customers over the newly raised privacy concerns.
In an interview with Variety on Monday, Lowe said he was mistaken about what data the MoviePass app actually collected. “I said something completely inaccurate as far as what we are doing,” he 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.”
While MoviePass has confirmed it isn't tracking subscribers in the background and when the app is closed, the service is still built around collecting and sharing user data with exhibitors and studios. MoviePass ensures that this data has been "completely anonymized," so that "there's never any personal information" shared with its partners. MoviePass monetizes this data sharing process and is the main way the service intends to stay afloat and make money going forward.
Lowe also mentioned the company's vision for its future, where MoviePass wants to be the center of "this whole night at the movies" idea, giving users recommendations for events after watching a movie. Of course, following the privacy concerns of the last few weeks, Lowe reiterated that, "When we do that, if we do that, we'll send a request to each customer to let them opt in or opt out."