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MoviePass Disables User-Location Tracking From App After Stirring Privacy Concerns

MoviePass removed a feature from its iOS app that let the company track the location of customers, responding to privacy fears stoked by the CEO’s recent comments.

According to the notes about the iOS update released March 7, the new version of the MoviePass app (version 3.0.6) has “removed unused app location capability.”

In a statement late Wednesday, the company said: “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 moviegoing 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.”

The move comes after MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe’s statements about how the company uses data for marketing purposes.

“We get an enormous amount of information,” he said at an industry conference last week, according to Media Play News. The MoviePass app tracks users “in your GPS by the phone… so 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. We don’t sell that data. What we do is we use that data to market film.”

MoviePass currently has about 2 million subscribers, and Lowe bullishly predicted that it will top 5 million by the end of 2018, speaking last week at an entertainment finance conference in Los Angeles.

There’s skepticism about whether MoviePass’ model is sustainable, and the startup has encountered resistance from exhibitors including AMC Theatres.

After initially launching the service starting at $30 per month, MoviePass cut its monthly pricing to $9.95 last summer. Then in February, it introduced a plan that works out to $7.95 per month (for customers who pay $115.35 for one year, which includes a $19.95 processing fee). MoviePass subscribers may see up to one movie per day at participating theaters, with certain restrictions.

According to MoviePass, the company currently buys around 6% of all domestic movie tickets. Lowe, a former Redbox exec and a founding exec of Netflix who joined MoviePass in 2016, predicted it would be buying around 20% of all tickets by the end of this year. MoviePass says its service is now accepted at more than 91% of theaters across the U.S.

MoviePass sold a majority ownership stake to data firm Helios and Matheson Analytics for $27 million last summer. Other investors in the New York-based company have included Lowe, True Ventures, NALA Investments, WME, and former Facebook chief privacy officer Chris Kelly.

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