March 10, 2021

Look Before You Binge: Netflix is Looking for Password Sharers

Look Before You Binge: Netflix is Looking for Password Sharers

Like most of us, the pandemic has offered us lots of time to binge watch shows on services like Hulu, HBO Max and Netflix. If you’re a regular listener of the Pop Culture Show, you know Barnes, Leslie and Cubby have been sharing their recommendations for shows on the streaming services like The Queen’s Gambit and Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel on Netflix, but the latest news from the inspiration for “Netflix and chill” evenings might send a different kind of chill up your spine. 

Yes, Netflix has begun cracking down on password sharing. If you are using a friend’s login credentials to catch the latest episode of, say, Nailed It! or Bridgerton, you may see a prompt pop up stating, “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.” Below that, you will find an option to have a code emailed or texted to the account owner, which you can enter to continue watching. In a statement, Netflix said the move was “designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorized to do so.” Of course, if you slip Grandma your login so she can watch The Great British Baking Show, you’re definitely not alone. A survey from research firm Magrid found that about one-third of all Netflix users share their password with at least one other person.

Since no one really takes the time to read those pesky “terms & conditions” when signing up for services like Netflix, you may not be aware that the service’s $8.99 per month Basic plan only allows streaming content on one device. With the $13.99 Standard plan, you can simultaneously stream on two devices and the $17.99 Platinum plan allows you to stream on four devices.  Netflix’s terms of service say a subscription is “for your personal and non-commercial use only and may not be shared with individuals beyond your household.”

This limited test, which is in its very early stages, is a form of two-factor authorization that you already have on many of your online accounts. So, not only is Netflix checking to see how many people are getting a free ride, it’s also providing added security for its existing (paying) users. In an interview with WIRED, Jake Moore, a cybersecurity specialist at security firm ESET says that, “There seems to be a misunderstanding that sharing passwords with known individuals is not dangerous,” adding, “The truth is that we shouldn’t be sharing passwords, and adding multi-factor authentication will help this process remain better protected.”

The problem with sharing your password is not only can your friend alter your recommendations on the service (possibly subjecting you to endless ads for Pawn Stars and Supermarket Sweep), you really can’t control how many people they then share it with, and how many people those people share it with, and so on. Those random password recipients could potentially get access to your personal data, especially with how often people use the same password for multiple sites.  

While password sharing is a Netflix no-no, the company is doing just fine. A recent Forbes article stated that the service most recently reported nearly 204 million subscribers worldwide, up 36.5 million or almost 22 percent for the year. Just keep an eye on who is in your Netflix inner circle and keep on bingeing.