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MoviePass removes 'unused' location capability in update

After MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe raised the hackles of privacy advocates by implying the movie deals service tracks user locations, the company on Wednesday issued an update for its eponymous app that removes a supposedly unused "location capability" feature.

MoviePass iOS app

According to its release notes, version 3.0.6 of MoviePass for iOS delivers theater and movie search performance improvements. More importantly, the update also removes an "unused app location capability."

While the release notes fail to go into further detail, the location capability is thought to be a function Lowe alluded to in a recent presentation at the Entertainment Finance Forum. During his talk "Data is the New Oil: How will MoviePass Monetize It?" last week, the CEO said MoviePass gleans user location data and is thinking of ways to leverage that information to enhance its service.

"We get an enormous amount of information," Lowe said at the time. "We watch how you drive from home to the movies. We watch where you go afterwards."

That information is not conveyed to MoviePass users in the company's privacy policy, which notes the app requires access to a user's location when selecting a theater. Location data is gathered in a "single request" that might also be used to "develop, improve and personalize the service," the company says.

Following public backlash, MoviePass on Monday attempted to clarify the situation by saying it is "exploring utilizing location-based marketing" to enhance the moviegoing experience for subscribers. For example, a user's location might be used to suggest nearby restaurants or advertise exclusive benefits like discounts on transportation.

To further sate privacy advocates, MoviePass appears to have put the exploratory tracking capability on ice, at least for now.

The app is unlikely to remove all location-based assets, like the nearby theater function, as they present a significant benefit to customers and underpin certain MoviePass features. Wary iOS users can limit software access to onboard positioning hardware in the Settings app under Privacy > Location Services.