Netflix on tablet with phone on Netflix login on top next to tv remote on light grey background

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Netflix’s proposed password-sharing crackdown has subscribers up in arms

Netflix walked back the changes for now, but that isn't stopping the backlash.


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 2, 2023   Updated on Feb 2, 2023, 4:14 pm CST

Netflix has been testing out methods to stop password sharing for months, but details of additional measures to crack down on password sharing are already being met with pushback, even without them being officially announced.

The details first emerged on Tuesday courtesy of The Streamable, which detailed who can use the same account, how a person sharing an account can transfer their profile, and how it handles traveling. Accessing Netflix while you travel will involve a temporary code that you can use for seven days.

“To ensure uninterrupted access to Netflix, connect to the Wi-Fi at your primary location, open the Netflix app or website, and watch something at least once every 31 days,” an archived version of Netflix’s Help Center states. “This creates a trusted device so you can watch Netflix, even when you’re away from your primary location.”

As for how Netflix will determine your primary location? Netflix uses “information such as IP addresses, device IDs, and account activity to determine whether a device signed into your account is connected to your primary location.”

Netflix has since removed those changes from the Help Center.

“For a brief time yesterday, a help center article containing information that is only applicable to Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru, went live in other countries,” a Netflix spokesperson told The Streamable, who added that Netflix would inform customers of changes before implementing them. “We have since updated it.”

It’s not clear how much, if any, of the proposed changes on how Netflix handles password sharing will eventually go into effect; it told the Verge that “Later in Q1, we expect to start rolling out paid sharing more broadly.”

Netflix’s ultimate goal in cracking down on password sharing is to convert the people who used shared passwords, which it estimated to be at more than 100 million households, into subscribers. But the proposed methods recently removed from Netflix’s Help Center, which include the likes of constant check-ins, tracking users’ locations to determine where they’re based, and making the ability to use Netflix when traveling a real hassle, is a recipe for disaster.

The streamer’s infamous 2017 tweet, which proclaimed that “Love is sharing a password,” also made the rounds again. It’s far from the first time Netflix’s “relatable” online brand has gotten it in trouble in the wake of business decisions—look at any time your favorite show got canceled—but five years on, it makes Netflix look hypocritical.

The proposed rule changes don’t seem to consider people who travel for days or weeks at a time, which might lock them out of their account for not logging onto their home network after 31 days. It also has little consideration for college students living on campus who use family accounts and face similar issues. People who only use Netflix occasionally and keep the account anyway might also run into problems when they want to actually watch something on Netflix. Some families may live in several locations and would also be pushed out of their accounts.

And as many people highlighted, it’s not Netflix’s only issue at hand. And it could just as easily spark some people to pirate Netflix shows instead.

“the funniest thing about this whole netflix debacle is that they think password sharing is what’s losing them money when in fact it’s the dwindling selection and cancelling popular shows after like 1 season lmfao,” @ClTYOFMON tweeted.

In 2023, there are more TV shows to stream than ever on several different streaming platforms. Netflix, with a reputation for canceling shows before they’re given a chance to thrive and with few tangible franchises, has fewer shows and movies worth watching. And across the board, it’s much more expensive to subscribe to streaming platforms, which might make people question if certain expenses are worth the cost. Might forcing people who use shared passwords lead to the creation of new subscribers? Sure. But it’s just as likely that with all of the hassle, password-sharing crackdowns might result in more cancellations than if they let people keep watching.

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*First Published: Feb 2, 2023, 4:13 pm CST