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Netflix could be taking a tougher approach to VPN tools

If you’ve ever started up Netflix whilst abroad you’ll know that its selection of movies and shows can vary significantly from country to country. Streaming rights are dished out based on the location you’re watching from, not from where you signed up, which is why you might not be able to get at all of your favorite programming while on holiday.

This thorny issue has led to a whole host of workarounds and hacks cropping up, as users employ Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and other advanced technology to unlock Netflix’s full potential from anywhere in the world. According to TorrentFreak, the streaming platform is now taking action against those trying to circumvent the system: A number of back-end changes have been spotted making it more difficult to spoof a different location.

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“A few weeks ago we received the first report from a handful of clients that Netflix blocked access due to VPN or proxy usage,” Ben Van der Pelt of TorGuard, one of the VPNs in question, told TorrentFreak. “This is the very first time I’ve ever heard Netflix displaying this type of error message to a VPN user… I have a sneaking suspicion that Netflix may be testing these new IP blocking methods temporarily in certain markets. At this time the blocks do not seem aggressive and may only be targeted at IP ranges that exceed too many simultaneous logins.”

For now it seems as though only a small number of users have noticed problems, and only on a temporary basis, but it could be that Netflix is prepping some kind of more advanced permanent system to put an end to the geographical workarounds that have appeared. The studios who license their content to Netflix are less than pleased that international restrictions are not being observed as they should be.

As for Netflix, it has told Engadget that there’s “no change” in the way that VPNs are handled by the platform — that would seem to suggest that most users shouldn’t be worried about being rumbled any time soon. However, circumventing these restrictions — annoying though they are — does break Netflix’s terms of service, so the streaming service would be well within its rights if it did start a more widespread clampdown.