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MoviePass CEO: 'We watch how you drive from home to the movies'

Update: A company spokesperson responded, and said the company is 'exploring' the tech.
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Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for MoviePass

MoviePass' approach to gathering viewer data might raise eyebrows. According to Media Play News, CEO Mitch Lowe told those at a business forum that the movie subscription service's app not only tracks your location, but follows you to and from the theater. "We watch how you drive from home to the movies," he said, adding that "we watch where you go afterwards." Not surprisingly, the company is hoping to understand customer habits and "build a night at the movies." If people tend to have dinner before the movie or to have a drink afterwards, for example, MoviePass could steer customers to restaurants and bars and take a cut of the revenue.

It's no secret that MoviePass would want to collect at least some data. It can use that to help movie studios gauge how well their shows are really doing, which is particularly important now that MoviePass has a stake in some productions. However, the company doesn't tell you that it's actively tracking your location. As TechCrunch explains, the privacy policy only covers a "single request" to help you choose a theater and improve the service. If Lowe is right, the app is not only collecting location info without consent, but creating a huge privacy risk -- even if the tracking data is anonymized, someone could theoretically figure out who you are and where you live.

We've asked MoviePass for comment. Provided Lowe hasn't misspoken, though, this would help explain why MoviePass is comfortable charging so little for a month's worth of theater trips. In theory, the wealth of data would offset whatever losses MoviePass endures. The question is whether or not it's collecting that data honestly, and it doesn't look like that's the case.

Update: A MoviePass spokesperson has responded, indicating that the comments have been taken a bit out of their original context, saying the company is "exploring" location-based marketing. We have asked if any current customers are being tracked and will update the post further if we get any more details. The full statement is below.

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.

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