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It sure looks like a Netflix password sharing crackdown is coming soon

Published Dec 31st, 2021 11:38AM EST
Netflix On TV

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Netflix password sharing is a widespread practice that’s been in use since the early days of the streaming service. Netflix knows about it and doesn’t necessarily like it, but the company tolerates it. Or at least that was the case for years.

But in mid-March 2021, some Netflix users found themselves facing a warning screen while attempting to log in. The app was nudging them towards opening their own Netflix accounts rather than using someone else’s. The page also offered account verification options in case the person seeing the warning happened to be the account owner.

Nothing came of that Netflix feature test, and password sharing is still a thing. But it appears that customers in Italy are witnessing a similar warning screen that targets people who share Netflix passwords.

The tests in March

Netflix confirmed that the warning screen seen below is just a test, similar to other tests the streamer performs every year.

“This test is designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorized to do so,” Netflix said in a statement at the time.

Netflix doesn’t usually share details about unsuccessful tests. Put differently, if the company is happy with a feature test, that feature rolls out to all Netflix users globally. Everyone will get to experience said feature.

The Netflix password sharing deterrent above seems to be one of the Netflix tests that didn’t graduate. That’s because we haven’t really seen it in use. Had Netflix rolled out the feature widely, the public outcry would be noticeable, to say the least.

New Netflix password sharing worries

This brings us to late December, as the Netflix password sharing scare is back. This time, reports from Italy detail the same warning that some users saw when trying to access their Netflix accounts earlier this year. Some of them sound apocalyptic, warning of bans or fines. Others are more down to Earth, explaining that Netflix can’t impose any sort of fines. And getting banned seems almost impossible.

But it looks like some Italian Netflix users are seeing prompts that are similar to the Netflix tests from March. Here’s a translation of what the Netflix login message reads:

If you don’t live with the account holder, you need your own account to continue watching Netflix. Is it your account? We’ll send you a verification code.

If Netflix were to put a stop to password sharing, it would see a significant backlash from users. No matter how much password sharing hurts its bottom line, taking drastic action against password sharing could hurt even more.

But the feature above seems like it’s designed to do just that. Or, at least, implement a softer “ban” of sorts. Maybe Netflix wants users to stop sharing passwords with people who aren’t part of their households. If that’s the case, a Netflix account verification like the one above could keep popping up until one of the parties decides to open a new account.

That’s just speculation, however, based on this Netflix password sharing scare from Italy. Of course, there’s clearly a reason why Netflix is once again testing the feature nine months after the initial discovery.

In other words, you’re still safe to share your Netflix logins with your friends and family for now. Netflix probably isn’t coming after you. Yet.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.