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Netflix test indicates crackdown on password sharing

Netflix has always known that some of its account holders share their passwords, but up until now, it’s refrained from tackling the issue head-on.

That could be about to change, however, as the video-streaming giant is currently experimenting with a message that tells people to create their own Netflix account if they’re not living in the same household as the owner of the account they’re trying to sign into.

Spotted this week by GammaWire, the test currently appears to be targeting a small number of people, though it could be rolled out more widely in the future and eventually become a permanent fixture.

So, how does it work?

Well, when someone goes to sign in, a message pops up saying: “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.” It then says it will send a verification code to the account owner for you to enter. Of course, if you’re using your buddy’s password, he or she could simply forward the code to you, but it’s an extra step that may not always be convenient for the account holder to carry out.

According to GammaWire’s report, most of the people got around the verification part by clicking on the “verify later” button that also appears with the message, with the warning yet to show up again.

Interestingly, the notice also includes the chance to start a free 30-day trial of the service, a feature that Netflix removed from its service last year.

It’s possible that the message is also an attempt by Netflix to tighten account security to prevent non-members who may have gained passwords by illicit means from logging in.

With the streaming market becoming increasingly competitive in the last couple of years, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Netflix is looking at ways to pull in more users. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the warning message will encourage someone who is using a friend’s password to sign up to the service, but it seems likely that that’s exactly what the test is about — to see how many people the message converts into paid users.

Sharing passwords is not illegal but it does violate Netflix’s terms of service, which states: “The Netflix service and any content viewed through the service are for your personal and non-commercial use only and may not be shared with individuals beyond your household.”

Another section reads: “The account owner should maintain control over the Netflix ready devices that are used to access the service and not reveal the password or details of the payment method associated with the account to anyone … We can terminate your account or place your account on hold in order to protect you, Netflix or our partners from identity theft or other fraudulent activity.”

Digital Trends has reached out to Netflix for comment on the issue and we will update this piece when we hear back.

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Trevor Mogg
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