Rights & Money

Netflix May Be Cracking Down on Password Sharing

The company says it’s simply testing a security feature

By Caitlin Finlay


One of the most popular online streaming services, Netflix, recently began testing a feature that could prevent people living in different households from sharing a single account. Some users have reported seeing a message offering a free trial subscription and stating, “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.”

Users are given the option of gaining access by confirming that they live with the owner of the account by entering a verification code sent to the account owner via text or e-mail. A “verify later” button allows a user to delay entering the code and continue watching, but the warning message will reappear; eventually, an unverified user would need to create a new account.

In a statement, a Netflix spokesperson said, “This test is designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorized to do so,” adding that it was intended to block hackers. It’s unclear whether household verification will remain a requirement beyond a small-scale testing phase—the test may in fact be part of a campaign to acquire new subscribers. The primary message that appears on a user’s screen is, “Start your own Netflix for free today” and under that is a clickable button with the words, “Join Free for 30 Days.”

Nevertheless, the development has many users worried about the future of password sharing with friends and family. While the Netflix terms of use clearly state that their service “may not be shared with individuals beyond your household,” password sharing is common and the company has never moved to prevent it. A survey conducted by the US market-research company Magid found that one-third of streaming service subscribers share their password with people outside of their household. Password sharing has been especially common during the last year due to the pandemic. Many people are stuck at home and turning to streaming services to pass the time. Once they’ve consumed the content available on one service, they may swap passwords with a friend to access new content.

If you’ve shared your password in the past and wish to limit access to your account, now may be a good time to change your password.

Photo: iStock: tcerovski.