When is Netflix stopping password sharing? New rules explained

Michael Scott from The Office and a Netflix logo behind a general anti vectorNBC/Netflix

Dread it, run from it, anti-password-sharing measures will arrive all the same – here’s everything you need to know about Netflix’s new rules, how they’ll be enforced, and when it will stop password sharing.

From the dawn of Netflix, friends and family have been mooching off of one another’s passwords. It’s a rite of passage; at the heart of every subscription service, there’s one poor sod paying for everyone else’s free ride.

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It just makes sense: if you trust someone, whether it’s your children or an ex clinging onto your account, why wouldn’t you let them use it? In 2017, Netflix’s own Twitter account even wrote: “Love is sharing a password.”

Alas, after months of threats many thought to be empty, the streaming firm is preparing to crack down on password sharing – and it’s going to be a headache. So, here’s what you need to know about when Netflix is planning on stopping password sharing and how it will work.

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Netflix password-sharing crackdown and rules explained

We’re going to explain this as comprehensively and succinctly as possible. Below, you’ll find our answers to a number of questions you may have.

Who can I share my Netflix password with?

You can share your Netflix password with anybody who lives in the same household. As per the company’s FAQs, “people who do not live in your household will need to use their own account to watch Netflix.”

So, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll use the example of a family account. If all members of the family still live at home, they can log into Netflix and access their own profile without a worry in the world.

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What if you’ve moved out, or you’re traveling abroad, or you want to watch Netflix in a hotel on holiday? Well, you’ll still be able to – but you may need to verify your device.

How will Netflix enforce its anti-password-sharing rules?

There is some confusion regarding this, but it seems Netflix will require you to verify your device if you’ve logged in outside of your household – but you may also be blocked from your account.

In its Help Center section, the site wrote: “When someone signs into your account from a device that is not associated with your Netflix household, or if your account is accessed persistently from a location outside of your household, we may ask you to verify that device before it can be used to watch Netflix. We do this to confirm that the device using the account is authorized to do so.”

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Netflix is able to do this by tracking IP addresses, device IDs, and account activity from devices signed into each user’s account.

This process shouldn’t be too complicated: the primary account holder will be sent a four-digit verification code which must be entered on the device within 15 minutes. If it expires, you can request a new code, and once inputted, you can use that device to watch Netflix – it’s just like two-factor authentication on the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

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This doesn’t clear the device for all future usage, and “device verification may be required periodically.”

Here’s the thing: the previous version of the help document, viewable via the Wayback Machine, outlined far stricter measures.

“When someone signs into your account from a device that is not part of your primary location, that device may be blocked from watching Netflix,” the first version of the rules read.

“If your device has been blocked, you have the following options: if you are traveling, request a temporary code to give you access to Netflix for 7 consecutive days; if you are not part of the account owner’s household, sign up for a new Netflix account.”

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How to avoid Netflix blocking your account

“To ensure uninterrupted access to Netflix, connect to the Wi-Fi at your primary location, open the Netflix app or website, and watch something at least once every 31 days,” the company wrote.

“This creates a trusted device so you can watch Netflix, even when you’re away from your primary location.”

So, let’s say you’re a student who’s moved out and living in a city thousands of miles away. As long as you go home every month and use Netflix, you’ll be fine – great, right?

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In the updated version of the rules, Netflix said any account that’s not associated “with the primary account owner’s household… will need to be verified before it can be used to watch Netflix. We do this to confirm that the device using the account is authorized to do so.”

Can I still use Netflix while traveling abroad?

According to Netflix, “if you are traveling or live between different homes, we want you to be able to enjoy Netflix anywhere, anytime. If you are the primary account owner (or live with them), you shouldn’t need to verify your device to watch Netflix.”

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If you’re going to be away for an extended period of time, you may be asked to verify your device using the same method described above. Pop in the verification code and you’ll be able to access your account.

Of course, this is fine if it’s the primary account holder who’s traveling, but it’s going to be a right pain having to text your mum or dad when you want to shove Netflix on the hotel’s TV. Or, in the worst-case scenario, you try to login to watch your offline downloads on a flight, and you’re asked for a verification code.

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Will Netflix enforce a password-sharing fee?

Netflix says it won’t automatically charge you if you share your account with someone who doesn’t live with you – but you may be required to upgrade your subscription.

Right now, Netflix offers four plans:

  • Basic with adverts, which allows you to watch on one supported device at a time. This costs $6.99/£4.99.
  • Basic, which allows you to watch and download on one supported device at a time. This costs $9.99/£6.99.
  • Standard, which allows you to watch and download on two supported devices at a time. This costs £15.49/£10.99.
  • Premium, which allows you to watch and download on four separate devices at a time. This costs $19.99/£15.99.

If Netflix believes there’s password-sharing afoot on your account, you may be required to pay for the next subscription tier.

However, there’s the possibility of another option. Last year, Netflix started trialling a feature that allowed people to add sub-accounts for up to two people they don’t live with. This would cost an extra $2.99/£2.50 per household if it was rolled out globally.

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When is Netflix stopping password sharing?

While an exact date hasn’t been confirmed, Netflix is expected to begin enforcing its password-sharing rules by the end of March 2023.

In a statement to The Verge, Netflix spokesperson Kumiko Hidaka addressed the company’s evolving rules and when users could expect any changes.

“As you may remember, we rolled out Extra Member in Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru back in March. But the US (and other countries) don’t have it… The only thing we’ve confirmed so far is that in our earnings on 19 January that ‘Later in Q1, we expect to start rolling out paid sharing more broadly,” they said.

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Can you beat Netflix’s password-sharing rules with a VPN?

The honest answer: a VPN might help get around Netflix’s password-sharing measures, but maybe not.

VPNs (virtual private network) have risen in popularity as they allow users to access Netflix content that’s not available in their region, usually as a result of licensing issues. If you’re in the UK, you could watch US Netflix, and so on.

They disguise your actual IP address, so in theory, a VPN could interfere with Netflix’s ability to accurately pin down your device’s location.

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Currently, Netflix says “you can use a VPN with Netflix on the Basic, Standard, or Premium plans”, but it’s unclear whether this may change under its new regime.

You can read more about Netflix’s new password-sharing rules here.