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Netflix’s New Password Sharing Rules, Explained One by One

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It’s finally coming. After months and months of buildup, international market testing, and no small amount of subscriber hand wringing, Netflix is at last set to put the squeeze on the crime of hanging onto your ex’s, older sibling’s, or parents’ account credentials for years on end. The company just updated its support page with new details on how account verification works, and for anyone bumming passwords (or, as some of us do it, managing a massive spreadsheet with multiple streaming accounts shared among four to five streaming anarchists dear friends and family members), it does not bode well. Let’s break down the new rules:

1. Giving your login to people outside your home is officially no bueno. This is the biggest change, the seed from which the other rules sprout and multiply. The company that infamously tweeted “Love is sharing a password” five years ago this March now specifies that if freeloaders outside your household want Netflix, they’ll have to pay for a new account. For now, the company says it won’t “automatically charge you” if someone logs in outside your home network, but I bet Netflix uses the opportunity to market the new Profile Transfer feature it rolled out last year as part of this strategy.

2. Expect to verify your devices at some point. You’ll do that with a four-digit code sent to the account owner’s email with a 15-minute expiration window. You may also have to renew the credentials every once in a while. You’ll have to renew (i.e., log in into your home network) those credentials every 31 days, a.k.a. probably just after Netflix cancels its next critically acclaimed television series. Keep in mind that Netflix’s pricing plans differ on how many devices you can use simultaneously.

3. Traveling with Netflix will only slightly suck, Netflix swears! Before, watching on the road on a laptop or tablet or phone or Apple TV you unplugged and tossed in your bag on the way out was a breeze. If you were already logged in, you were good. Set it and forget it. The new guidance states “If you are the primary account owner (or live with them), you shouldn’t need to verify your device to watch Netflix” while traveling, then follows it immediately with a paragraph stating that you may have to re-verify said device if you’re away for a longer than seven days. Hmm.

4. Netflix will be watching you more closely 😳. The company will use information such as IP addresses, device IDs, and account activity from devices signed into the Netflix account” to sniff out offenders, it promises. To be clear, it already had all this information from the jump, feeding it back to its spiders so they can sling you algorithm-approved programming. Given the added scrutiny on IP addresses and how they interface with your account, you may also run into issues if you’re frequently using, say, a VPN to stream content from different countries. We wouldn’t know anything about that, though.

It’s worth noting that since the password-crackdown strategy was announced, Netflix has had a stronger-than-expected showing in subscriber growth, adding 7.7 million new users in its last quarterly report and boasting that it doubled the customer base of its new ad-supported tier in January. For its foreseeable future, though, love won’t mean “sharing a password” so much as texting the account owner for the PIN to green-light a device. We’ll know what viewers think of that next quarter.

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