MoviePass is watching you watch movies. And yes, that’s as creepy as it sounds.
The subscription service catering to regular moviegoers employs data collection to an extent that some might refer to as “overboard.” For roughly $10 a month, you can go see one movie per day at participating theaters. But there are other, hidden costs as well, apparently.
Speaking on March 2 at the Entertainment Finance Expo, MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe offered some insight into his company’s data collection techniques (h/t Media Play News). It goes a lot further than you’d probably imagine.
We get an enormous amount of information. Since we mail you the card, we know your home address, of course, we know the makeup of that household, the kids, the age groups, the income. It’s all based on where you live. It’s not that we ask that. You can extrapolate that. Then because you are being tracked in your GPS by the phone, our patent basically turns on and off our payment system by hooking that card to the device ID on your 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.
The idea of MoviePass piecing together the demographics of your household based on where you live (and, presumably, what you watch) is worrisome enough. But it’s surprising to learn that the company also uses your smartphone’s GPS data to quite literally track your movements.
To give this quote some context, it came when Lowe delivered the trade show’s keynote address, titled: “Data is the New Oil: How Will MoviePass Monetize It?”
He claims that gathered data isn’t sold; it’s used instead to “market film.” The company’s “bigger vision” is to eventually use that data to help subscribers plan their full night out at the movies. So you’d theoretically have the app helping you find a place to eat dinner, and MoviePass — having established relationships with different vendors — would get a cut of the bill.
All of which is to say: For existing subscribers and those considering a subscription who care about data privacy, read those terms before you agree to anything. MoviePass might seem like a deal on the surface, but do the research and make sure you learn what you’re actually paying.
A MoviePass spokesperson had this to say in a statement given to Mashable:
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.
Proma Khosla contributed reporting to this story.