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Netflix steps up policing of password sharing

Two women sit on a park bench in "Emily in Paris."
Lily Collins, left, and Ashley Park in Netflix show “Emily in Paris.”
(Carole Bethuel / Netflix)

Sharing streaming passwords with friends or distant family members?

That may become harder to do on Netflix.

The Los Gatos, Calif.-based streaming giant confirmed on Thursday that it’s testing a feature that will force some users to verify their accounts — policing those who share passwords outside of their households.

When users open the Netflix TV app, they will be asked to verify their account with a code that is either texted or emailed to the account holder. If they aren’t the account holder, users will be reminded, “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching,” according to GammaWire, a site that reports on technology trends.

Users can opt to verify the information later, and after a period of time they may be prompted again to put in the verification code.

“This test is designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorized to do so,” Netflix said in a statement, declining to specify what countries would be affected by the password crackdown.

Part of the idea behind the test is to protect consumers from security risks surrounding password sharing and to remind them of Netflix’s rules, according to a Netflix spokesperson.

Netflix’s terms of use on its website says, “The Netflix service and any content viewed through our service are for your personal and noncommercial use only and may not be shared with individuals beyond your household.”

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Netflix added a record number of new subscribers in 2020, helped by a surge in home viewing.

Password sharing has become more common amid the pandemic, as more streaming services enter the market and consumers look for ways to cut costs.

About 42% of consumers in the spring said they had shared or received passwords since the spread of COVID-19, according to a study conducted by market research firm OnePoll for streaming service Tubi that was released in April.

Additionally, Netflix is competing against other streaming services including rivals such as Disney+ , which has seen its users skyrocket since its launch in November 2019. Netflix currently has more than 200 million subscribers and Disney said this week that Disney+ had more than 100 million subscribers.

In October, Netflix raised the price of its standard plan for streaming on two screens by $1 to $13.99 a month. Premium plans went up by $2 to $17.99 a month.


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