Sharing your Netflix password with a friend or family member has always been a bit of a “grey” area. Technically, it’s against the rules. However, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has previously spoken positively about the practice and never showed much inclination to clampdown on passwords being shared between family members or close friends.
Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show 2016, in Las Vegas, Hasting said: “We love people sharing Netflix. That’s a positive thing, not a negative thing.”
But while it’s true that word-of-mouth is a great way to turn Netflix’s latest crime documentary series or drama boxset into a must-binge sensation, surely there comes a point when too many people are piggybacking on the same £5.99 a month subscription? In the past, it seems Netflix has drawn the line when children move-out from home permanently. Chief Product Manager Neil Hunt told Digital Spy a few years ago, “We expect that Netflix is a household-level purchase and that sharing with members of the household is a reasonable thing to do.
“When the kids go off to college, are they going to use that login? Well, that’s probably OK, but when the kids go off and form their own household, they want the control of having their own account, so eventually, that turns into a new revenue stream for us there as well.
However, Netflix is now testing a new feature designed to prevent accounts from being shared outside of the same four walls. The crackdown is already being used across “hundreds” of accounts and is designed to ensure that everyone logged into the same account lives with each other.
To do this, Netflix will randomly ping some users with a notification asking them to verify they live with the account holder. To do this, Netflix viewers need to enter a code that has been texted or emailed to the bill-payer.
Obviously, if you live in the same house, it’s easy enough to jog downstairs and get the code from the correct family members’ email address. Likewise with housemates living together, or a flat at University. However, things get a little more difficult if you’re in another part of the country entirely to the account owner.
It’s unclear how much time users will have to enter the code and whether some viewers will be cut-off if they fail the test.
The notification, which is already being tested across the globe by Netflix, clarifies: “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.”
Netflix claims the new feature is not only designed to prevent password-sharing between friends but is also an important security feature. After all, if someone has managed to steal your password – or an ex-partner is still logged into your account and using your login to stream, they won’t be able to verify with the correct code. And after that, they’ll no longer be able to use your account details.
A spokesperson for Netflix said: “This test is designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorised to do so.”
In the Netflix terms and conditions, the US company 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.”
With this new feature, it seems Netflix might finally be serious about cracking down on those breaking that rule.