Netflix’s password sharing crackdown starts now. Here’s what it means for households

Company expects people to cancel as a result of new rules – but then to come back

Andrew Griffin
Monday 29 May 2023 08:19 BST
Netflix making changes to 'My List' feature

Netflix has finally launched its long-awaited crackdown on password sharing in the US and the UK.

The move is an attempt to help it grow its subscriptions and profits amid slowing interest in the streaming platform.

But it also means that those people who use other people’s accounts – and those who own those accounts – could be facing some significant changes in the way they use the platform.

Here’s what the crackdown means for you, and anyone who might be on your account.

What are Netflix’s rules about password sharing?

Netflix’s rules specifically say that any account is meant for use by one household. It’s very permitted to have more than one person within that household – that is why it offers the “profiles” feature that lets people have multiple lists and viewing histories in one account – but it is not permitted for people to use an account associated with another household.

The definition of a household is a little vague, and Netflix defines it as “you and the people you live with”. In practice, that means the other people who live at the same address, at least in terms of ensuring that you won’t get caught up with Netflix’s rules, which are based on location.

That doesn’t mean that you can only use Netflix within one house. The company is very happy with people using the app outside of their home, such as when travelling, and again makes allowances for that with features such as being able to download films and TV shows to watch offline.

The rules limiting Netflix accounts to one household have long been in place, however. What has changed is that the company is now going to start enforcing them, by kicking people out of accounts if they don’t believe them to be within a household.

What does the crackdown mean?

The new changes mean that Netflix will be using a variety of tools to spot when people are using another household’s account – and prevent them from doing so. That spotting will happen using a variety of tools, but is primarily about checking a devices IP address and other identifiers to see whether its usage patterns suggest it is not following the rules.

If that happens, then Netflix will stop that person accessing the account. Instead, they’ll offer new ways for those people to get online properly.

Over time, Netflix expects that there will be some cancellations from people who have so far been sharing accounts, it said in its recent results. But tests have shown that many of those people then come back again, and that it overall leads to more people paying for subscriptions, which is why it has chosen to press ahead.

What are the options for people sharing passwords?

Netflix is giving those people who have been sharing accounts two different options.

First, they can “transfer a profile”. That means the person sharing the account can get their own, new membership but that it will include all of their watch history and other data, so that they don’t lose out when they start over again.

Otherwise, you can “buy an extra member” for your account, which essentially means that the person will stay on your account but you will have to pay for them. That is slightly cheaper than buying a full-blown new login, at £4.99 in the UK or $7.99 in the US.

What about people who share their accounts?

If you are the person lending out your account, rather than the one borrowing it, there isn’t necessarily anything you need to do. Netflix isn’t pursuing people who have shared their password.

It does however encourage users to check who’s using the account, to avoid getting told off for lending it. That can be done by heading to Netflix’s settings, which offers the option to sign out any devices that are logged in, as well as changing the password so they can’t get back in.

What about if I travel a lot?

If you are using your account outside of the house, there’s no big reason to worry. You can still do so, though you might receive some warnings from Netflix if you are away for a long time.

During the rollout, Netflix said that it had received some feedback about people getting the warnings because they had been travelling, rather than sharing their accounts. It suggested that has been fixed in the new version of the technology that is monitoring those logins.

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