MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe caused significant concern among privacy-conscious customers last week when he boasted about how much data the company had on its users while speaking at an industry event. In an attempt to minimize the backlash, the company issued an update to its iOS app that it said “removed unused app location capability.” Now the CEO is saying that he misspoke.
“I said something completely inaccurate as far as what we are doing,” Lowe told Variety. “We only locate customers when they use the app.” The CEO also posted a letter to customers apologizing for the confusion his remarks caused.
Lowe is referring to what he said in a keynote titled, “Data is the New Oil: How Will MoviePass Monetize It?” in which he began to talk about just how much data MoviePass has on its customers. “We watch how you drive from home to the movies,” Lowe said. “We watch where you go afterwards.”
The CEO said that the company’s reasoning was to help its service provide a full night out at the movies. Presumably, data about where customers are coming from or going to after the movies could be used to help offer dinner recommendations or provide customers with ideas for where they might want to go when a film is over.
Now, Lowe is adamant that he was mistaken when he made the above comments. “If you get in your car and drive five miles, we don’t know where you are or where you are going,” he said. The MoviePass app checks users’ locations in two use cases: When they’re looking for a theater in their area that participates in the MoviePass service, and when they check into a theater. At least, that is the case now that the other location capabilities have been removed.
Lowe says that the company hasn’t ruled out using location data in other situations to create the “night at the movies” he mentioned in his keynote, which could include special offers from nearby restaurants. If this happens, however, the CEO says that each customer will be able to individually opt in or out. Lowe also insists that while the app did have the ability to track users’ locations at all times, it was never turned on, and that personal information about users is never shared with the company’s partners.
MoviePass launched at a somewhat pricey $50 per month, but cut its pricing to $10 per month over the summer. The service is proving popular with moviegoers, having recently passed 2 million subscribers. It’s accepted at more than 91 percent of U.S. theaters, though some major chains like AMC Theaters don’t participate.
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