Netflix test stops you from using someone else’s password

It’s a fact of life: Netflix passwords get shared. At this point, I’m pretty sure half of New York City has borrowed my Netflix password at one point or another, and so far, the streaming service has been rather nonchalant about password sharing. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has even gone on the record multiple times to say sharing a login is “a positive thing.”

Now it seems the company is considering tightening the reins a little. As first reported by The Streamable, some Netflix users began to see a prompt basically telling them to get their own accounts.

“If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching,” reads the message. It then asks users to either sign up for a trial, or verify their identity with an email or text.

If you’re real tight with the actual account owner, you could just have that person send you that verification code, but you might be in trouble if you’re still using your ex-roommate’s password they gave you five years ago. It’s also not clear how Netflix is defining a household. It could theoretically use IP addresses, but that won’t cover the wealth of devices people tend to watch Netflix on (that said, the test appears to be limited to TV devices for now).

For its part, Netflix isn’t specifying how permanent the feature will be. A spokesperson told The Streamable, “This test is designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorized to do so.” That could be framed as a security measure against, say, stolen passwords, but the way the prompt is phrased makes it clear the primary intent is to limit password sharing.

Truth be told, it seemed like such a move was inevitable. While this test doesn’t mean Netflix will implement the crackdown widely any time soon, there’s a huge amount of Netflix viewers who don’t actually pay for the service. Research suggests as much as a third of Netflix users share their account information with someone outside their household; it’s hard to imagine Netflix will allow all that potential money to go untapped for long.

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Published March 11, 2021 — 22:24 UTC

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