Netflix accidentally revealed its blueprint to stop password sharing

Netflix accidentally revealed its blueprint to stop password sharing

By now, it’s common knowledge that the days of sharing Netflix passwords with friends and family across countries are numbered. Users in Latin America got a first taste of just how draconian the new rules will get, and we all got to see it.

The streaming giant accidentally posted a set of guidelines being trialed in three markets—Chile, Peru, and Costa Rica—across its help center pages, including in the US, on Wednesday (Feb. 1).

Netflix spokesperson Kumiko Hidaka later clarified to The Verge that the rules only applied to the three countries where subscribers have the option of adding an “extra member” to Netflix profiles. The rules have since been taken down, but they outlined the checks and balances Netflix is planning to implement to make sure only one account can work in any one household. And for any extra members outside their homes, account holders will have to shell out more cash.

Netflix has been accused of nickel-and-diming its users, but the company says password-sharing is costing them dearly.

Who can share a Netflix account?

Netflix will allow people in the same household as the primary account holderwhose devices are logged into the same home location wi-fi, to use the same Netflix account—as long as they open the Netflix app or website and watch something at least once every 31 days.

How can a Netflix account be used outside its primary location?

What if I’m traveling?

Subscribers can request a temporary code to give them access to Netflix for 7 consecutive days.

What if I move?

If the primary location changes, the user can update it using a TV in the current location.

What if I want to share my account with someone who doesn’t live with me?

The simple answer is, you can’t. Not for free anyway.

The only way to do it is to pay some more money, albeit less than the basic plan, to add an extra member to the account. Members on Standard and Premium plans in Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru, can add sub accounts for up to two people they don’t live with for 2,380 CLP ($3.04), $2.99, and 7.9 PEN ($2.03) respectively.

The additional member will have their own account and password, but their membership will be paid for by the person who invited them to join. The extra member doesn’t necessarily have to start a new account. They can also transfer a profile from an existing account, including recommendations, viewing history, My List, saved games, settings, and more.

This additional membership comes with limitations, though. Extra members can:

  • watch Netflix on any device, but only on 1 device at a time.
  • download titles, but only on 1 phone or tablet at a time.
  • only have 1 profile and cannot create additional profiles.

The biggest limitation of all for cross-country friends, lovers, and relatives, is that the extra members must create their account in the same country associated with the account owner’s. This would enable Netflix to roll out the feature on a country-by-country basis without dealing with different cost structures.

Some Twitter users unearthed a 2017 tweet from the Netflix account saying “Love is sharing a password” and highlighted the contrast with the current plans.

Verifying a device that’s using a Netflix account

If a Netflix account is accessed persistently from a location that’s not the primary household, Netflix may ask the paying subscriber to verify the device. The company will send a link to the email address or phone number associated with the account holder, which opens a page with a 4-digit verification code that needs to be entered on the device that requested it within 15 minutes, it said on its FAQ page.

Rewind: The password-sharing crackdown that didn’t work

In October, Netflix decided to sunset its “add a home” feature in Argentina, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Under this strategy, users who used Netflix for an extended time outside their household were prompted to purchase a new “home” account for an additional permitted location. The experimental model was met with immense backlash on social media, with people posting screenshots of their canceled subscriptions.

Netflix password-sharing, by the digits

13%: Share of more than 2,200 US adult broadband users, including 1,315 Netflix users, surveyed by Aluma who would cancel their subscription if Netflix charged $3 per month for additional out-of-home users. “Consumers have for years been told, both tacitly and explicitly, that sharing passwords with others outside the home was acceptable,” Aluma founder and principal analyst Michael Greeson said. “To remove this ‘privilege’ at this time—when prices for fuel, food, and other necessities are skyrocketing—could indeed rub some loyal subscribers the wrong way”

$6.25 billion: How much Netflix is losing to illegal password-sharing platforms such as TogetherPricewhich offers access to subscriptions for as little as $1, allowing customers to share subscription costs

$1.6 billion: How much Netflix could earn from password-sharing fees annually

One more thing: Netflix’s “household” is flawed

Netflix’s policy hinges on an assumption: “that there is a commonly understood, universal meaning of ‘household,’ and that software can determine who is and is not a member of your household,” Cory Efram Doctorow, a Canadian-British journalist and activist who supports liberalizing copyright laws, wrote in a blog post.

The way it stands, there’s a number of people Netflix’s policy doesn’t cater to—especially those who veer away from the so-called “normal.” What happens to families with itinerant agricultural breadwinners who travel far and wide for work? What about global nomads? What about a child with divorced parents who shuttles between different households?

Doctorow branded Netflix’s plan as elitist. “If you travel for business and stay in the kind of hotel where the TV has its own Netflix client that you can plug your username and password into, Netflix will give you a seven-day temporary code to use,” he wrote. “But for the most hardcore road-warriors, Netflix has thin gruel. Unless you connect to your home wifi network every 31 days and stream a show, Netflix will lock out your devices. Once blocked, you have to ‘contact Netflix.’” The company might want to double check whether its customer services could handle the demand.

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