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MoviePass has been secretly tracking your location (updated)

MoviePass

The CEO boasted about the app’s location monitoring at a recent forum.

The service MoviePass has been a godsend for movie lovers. For a low subscription fee, the app lets you see up to a movie a day in theaters across the nation. Unsurprisingly, that “bargain” comes at a price, though. The app has apparently been secretly tracking your location data, according to statements made by the startup’s CEO.

“We get an enormous amount of information,” MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe said recently at the Entertainment Finance Forum in Hollywood. “We watch how you drive from home to the movies. We watch where you go afterwards.”

This is the sort of thing that isn’t necessarily problematic, as long as users are aware of the behavior. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. As of writing, the MoviePass Privacy Policy still does not mention the app’s location tracking. It says that location is only used when selecting a theater: “This is a single request for your location coordinates (longitude, latitude, and radius) and will only be used as a means to develop, improve and personalize the service,” the privacy policy states.

The company has issued a statement regarding its location tracking:

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.

The MoviePass app is the latest in a long line of apps opting to track user behavior for longer than expected. Last year, Uber came under fire for similar behavior—the app would track users’ location for up to five minutes following the end of their Uber ride.

MoviePass needs to update its privacy terms to clearly disclose what data it’s collecting, for how long, and how it uses that information. In the meantime though, iOS 11 users can help bar against unwanted location tracking by customizing the Location Services setting for specific apps.

Update 10:40am, March 8: Late Wednesday, MoviePass addressed criticism over its location tracking features with an app update. MoviePass also explained its move in a statement:

“Today, MoviePass released a new app update, including the removal of some unused app location capabilities. While part of our vision includes using location-based marketing to enhance the movie-going experience for our members, we aren’t using some of that functionality today. Our members will always have the option to choose the location-based services that are right for them today and in the future.”

H/T TechCrunch

Christina Bonnington

Christina Bonnington

Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.