Netflix Fails to Break Down Password Sharing Restrictions

Several devices including a remote, phone and tablet all trying to log on to Netflix.

According to the latest page Netflix has on password sharing, Netflix users need to periodically reverify devices not connected to the primary home IP address.
Photo: wisely (Shutterstock)

As much as Netflix account holders were dreading the day the company finally cracked down on password sharing, the streaming giant’s first taste of what it has in store for users was both confusing and concerning. Folks online were dumbfounded by some unverified reports that Netflix’s password sharing would require users to connect devices to their account every month, or else that device would be blocked.

Without any official announcement, Netflix updated its support page Tuesday to detail how it plans to restrict users from sharing an account with folks outside their immediate household. However, the company made changes to the page after it was initially posted, and it still remains unclear just how upcoming restrictions on password sharing will work.

As viewed on the Wayback Machine, the Tuesday version of the help center page details how “anyone in your household… can use your account,” but any devices not connected with that “primary location” will need to connect to the home Wi-Fi, log on to the Netflix app or website and watch something “at least once every 31 days.” Any device that doesn’t log in may be “blocked from watching Netflix.”

The older page also offers insight into specific means of unblocking Netflix if a user is traveling or is “away from your primary location for an extended period of time.” In cases where users are traveling, Netflix would give them a temporary code to access Netflix for seven consecutive days. Otherwise, the streaming company reiterated that if you are not part of the users “household” will need to sign up for their own account or else transfer their account.

These clauses are no longer a part of the newest version of the page. As of Wednesday morning ET, there is no hint of the 31 days restriction. Instead, the streaming giant clarified that when a device used outside the household signs in, or is used repeatedly, Netflix will ask the user to verify that device by either clicking a link sent to the account holder’s email or phone number. Users then need to enter a provided code within 15 minutes of requesting the link.

If that’s already enough of a hassle, the page also reads “Device verification may be required periodically.”

The Netflix support page details how users who are traveling or living between different homes “shouldn’t” need to verify their devices. Though if a user is away from the “household” for any stretch of time, they may need to re-verify the device.

Gizmodo reached out to Netflix to see if the company could settle some of this confusion, but we did not immediately hear back. We will update the story if we hear more. Just for a moment, let’s remember when just a few years ago, Netflix was incentivizing users to share their passwords with loved ones.

The company keeps using the word “household” to describe the immediate family of the account owner, though as of reporting, the page defining “household” is currently blank. The company does say it detects devices in a household using IP addresses, device IDs, and account activity from devices signed into the account. However, older versions of the “household” page detail how the household can change during the device verification process.

What makes this all the more confusing is that based on what Netflix plan you’re paying for, multiple people on the same account could be watching Netflix at once. It’s also strange that none of this references “paid sharing,” which was how Netflix previously described its anti-password sharing initiative. The company had told investors users would need to pay extra to share accounts with people they don’t live with, though there’s no reference to any such program in the new help page.

Last year, Netflix rolled out a password sharing crackdown beta in several countries in Central and South America, though users complained that the system failed to identify when users used their own devices outside of the home. The fee for adding an extra person outside the household was $2 a month, but it’s still unknown how much it will cost U.S. users and the rest of the world. Still, Netflix was excited to see a jump in new account sign ups for those test markets, so the company has remained undeterred in its attempt to stop users sharing accounts.

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