Is Netflix cracking down on password sharing?

//Is Netflix cracking down on password sharing?
Is Netflix cracking down on password sharing?

Some Netflix viewers are being asked to enter a verification code sent to the account holder before they start streaming.

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Ben Patterson/IDG

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The years of Netflix looking the other way as users share passwords with friends and loved ones might be coming to an end, with the streaming giant rolling out a test that appears to take aim at Netflix freeloaders.

As reported by GammaWire, some Netflix users have encountered a screen that warns, “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.”

At the bottom of the screen are buttons for requesting a verification code sent via email or text. There’s also a “verify later” option that allows users to keep watching without a verification code, although it’s not clear exactly how much later “later” means.

Netflix confirmed the test to The Hollywood Reporter, adding that the test is “designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorized to do so.”

Sharing Netflix passwords has been a thing for about as long as there’s been a Netflix, and we’ve even reported on tools that make it easier and safer to share your Netflix password with others.

For years, Netflix appeared to simply let the practice go. “We love people sharing Netflix whether they’re two people on a couch or 10 people on a couch,” Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings said back in 2016, the reasoning being that password freeloaders generally wound up signing for their own accounts.

But the streaming industry has been taking password sharing—or password piracy—more seriously. By one estimate, streamers lost $9.1 billion due to password freeloaders, a figure that’s projected to soar to $12.5 billion by 2024.

Still, it’s not clear whether the new Netflix test signals a wider crackdown on password sharing or merely a smaller experiment. Netflix told CNBC that it tries “hundreds” of tests a year, and that it “might not lead” to a general password crackdown.

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Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart home and home entertainment products.

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