Netflix has launched a crackdown on password sharing, leading to fears that the days of joint accounts could be over.
Under the test, users see a screen that tells them they might need to buy their account.
And in some circumstances, it even asks them to confirm they know the account holder, by verifying through a code.
The feature is being trialed at the moment, but the company confirmed that it is aimed at ensuring that only people “authorized” to use an account are doing so.
Here’s everything you need to know about the update – including whether people might soon be kicked out of their accounts.
The new change – which is so far only being seen by select users, and has been confirmed by Netflix to be a “test” – is a nudge designed to make people sign up for their account.
Users report seeing a screen saying, ““If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.”
It then directs them to the option to confirm they do indeed know the owner through a verification system. That will send an email or text to the person registered as the owner of the account, so that they or the person watching can put it in.
It also offers some people a free trial for a month, so they can sign up themselves. That is despite the fact that Netflix no longer actually offers its free trials generally, bringing them to an end in favor of other ways of encouraging people to sign up.
All of this can, however, be skipped – at least for now. It is possible to bypass the prompt without doing any of the verification or confirming that you are the account’s owner.
Is this a sign of coming change?
For now, the change is very much a soft prompt; Netflix is not kicking people out of shared accounts. In a way, nothing has changed at all, since people can go on using their accounts – whether they own them or live with the owner or not – just as they did before.
But there is nothing to say that will not change in the future, or that the company will not at least make it more difficult for people to share their passwords.
But, equally, Netflix has been fairly permissive about such sharing in the past. In 2016, co-founder and chief executive Reed Hastings said that “password sharing is something you have to learn to live with, because there’s so much legitimate password sharing”.
It’s more likely that the crackdown is aimed at what the site might refer to as illegitimate password sharing: accounts that are shared way beyond a family, perhaps by people who don’t know each other.
How does Netflix know when
I’m sharing passwords?
It is not exactly clear how Netflix is tracking its users’ password sharing behaviors, or whether it is using any tracking to decide when the show the prompts and who to.
But there are a host of ways that it is possible to. Every time a device logs in, it registers its IP address and information with Netflix, which can easily use that to know whether multiple people are logging in in various locations, though it is not foolproof.
You can see some of this data if you check in your own account, where it will show the devices that are logged in as well as a guess about where they might be. You can then click to log people out, if you find people sharing your account that you’d rather didn’t.