At long last, Netflix is making a real attempt at cracking down on password sharing. First spotted by GammaWire and then confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter, the streaming giant is currently testing a feature where Netflix viewers attempting to log into the service using somebody else’s account and password are stopped by a message that reads: “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.” The viewer must then provide identity verification to continue watching.
A Netflix spokesperson told THR the feature is getting a limited rollout at this time, adding, “This test is designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorized to do so — both by the member who owns the account and under our Terms of Service.”
Viewers who are blocked from logging into an account with the aforementioned message will have to verify their identity in order to continue using Netflix. Viewers have the option of verifying their identity right away or choosing a “verify later” option, which “gives the viewer an unspecified additional amount of time to continue watching and later confirm they are a valid account user.” To verify an account, a text or email code will be sent to the account owner.
The account verification test marks a shift in strategy for Netflix, which up until now has not policed against password sharing. As THR notes, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in 2016 that “password sharing is something you have to learn to live with because there’s so much legitimate password sharing – like you sharing with your spouse, with your kids…so there’s no bright line, and we’re doing fine as is.”
The CEOs of other streaming platforms have also expressed a more relaxed approach to password sharing in the past. Months before the launch of HBO Max, WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey said the streamer would not block against password sharing. “I don’t think we’re going to get to a punitive environment, lawsuits being filed against folks,” he said. “I do believe the technology’s starting to get better to start paying attention to extensive abuse — when we see 14 locations logged into HBO on a Sunday night with 16 different streams going, we’re aware of those things. As growth taps out, I think the industry will come up with a method that’s a bit more rigorous.”
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