Netflix to begin cracking down on users sharing passwords

Netflix is testing out a feature to make the streaming service more secure and cut down on password sharing.

Password sharing is when an account owner gives their password to a friend or family member who is not already on their account’s plan so that they can use the site’s content without paying for an account. This cuts into Netflix’s profits because users can enjoy their content without actually paying for it.

Netflix has already started implementing a feature that informs users “if you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching,” and it has an option for a code to be texted to the account owner’s phone or to be sent to the account’s associated email address.

This is a system called two-factor authentication, a form of multi-factor identification, and is already being used by many other sites.

Brian Bovee, assistant professor of computer information technology and program coordinator for CBU Online’s bachelors in computer information technology, said that sending a code to someone’s phone is a common form of multi-factor identification, and while it is not the most secure, although it will likely help achieve Netflix’s goal.

“What they are doing is called multi-factor identification, which means when you log in, there is more than one type of verification,” Bovee said. “Sometimes people will use biometrics, where they use their finger or something as a secondary (confirmation). A common way to do it these days is just to text you something to your phone to verify that it’s you. It’s not a fool-proof method, because (the friend) could just call (the account owner) to ask for the code, but I think it will discourage that because that will get old for people pretty quick.”

Bovee said that more sites are using this kind of verification and that it is useful for more than just Netflix preventing unauthorized people from using an account with the permission of the user, but also for security purposes.

“It’s not just to prevent shared accounts, they are phrasing it as something they need to crack down on shared accounts, but it also (has) security (benefits),” Bovee said. “We get that all the time now, so many websites that we go to where they say they’re going to text you a code. It’s becoming pretty standard now, multi-factor authentication is becoming almost normal everywhere, so I think you’re going to see that. Definitely in places where people are sharing accounts, so they can start capturing that revenue.”

Bovee said he believes multi-factor identification, and even more advanced versions than sending a code to a phone or an email, will be used more often in the future.

“As we move forward, there are a lot of other types of biometrics,” Bovee said. “We’ve been using images, for example, your face like we (can) have for our phones, or your eyes, retinal scans, thumb (prints); those are all ways that in the future we might see verification. Right now, the phone seems like the popular way to go, but I think what we’re going to see in the future is more use of different kinds of biometrics. I think that’s going to become more commonplace for things like the TV, where as long as you are in front of your TV, it’s going to verify who you are based on your face.”

Aiko Miller, freshman pre-nursing student, said she is in favor of Netflix making their accounts more secure.

“It sounds like a smart, more secure way to keep people off your account,” Miller said.

Sharing accounts is a common practice, although it is forbidden under the terms of service, and there is a possibility that adding this extra step will discourage people from doing it this way. However, it might drive them to pirate content in less secure ways. Miller said despite this, she does not think those using the site legally will have a problem with more security.

“I think (people pirating content) is definitely a possibility, but I don’t think that people will be upset about a more secure system,” Miller said.

Miller said she sees a future in this for other streaming services, as well.

“I think once a big company like Netflix does it, others will follow along,” Miller said.

Ashley Huff, freshman communication sciences and disorders major, said people need to be careful who they share their password with, even if it is a close friend who you trust.

“I feel like (password sharing) is fine for family members you’re really close with, but friends, not so much,” Huff said. “Something could happen and they could share with other people, so it’s just not the smartest.”

Communal Netflix accounts may be coming to an end, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. People can still screen-share with friends or hang out together in-person to watch shows together, especially once the pandemic is clear, and this feature will help to keep unwanted people off of other people’s accounts.

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