By Omo Ifabua | Contributor
It has now been over a year since the world was hit by COVID-19 and despite the downsides of lockdown, many would agree that it has given us the chance to catch up on TV shows we never had the time to watch. Considering this, it seems impossible to deny the role of Netflix in keeping the world entertained during the pandemic; However, it seems like soon, the fun is due to come to an end for some of us.
This month, some Netflix users reported seeing a pop-up notification on their screens, warning that, “if you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching”. Alongside this, they were then offered a 30-day free trial if they created their own subscription. Addressing the situation, a Netflix spokesperson emphasised that this trial is to avoid people using accounts without the owner’s permission. Soon the streaming platform may also introduce verification codes that will only be made available to the account holder through their email or phone number; This would then give them greater control over which individuals can gain access to their streaming account. A Netflix representative told the BBC that, “This test is designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorised to do so”, which they say is a rising concern.
Although Netflix specifies that accounts and passwords must only be used with explicit permission from the owner, the situation is not so straightforward. Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings admitted in 2016 that, “Password sharing is something you have to learn to live with, because there’s so much legitimate password sharing, like you sharing with your spouse, [or] with your kids”. However, with this, ‘password leaking’ also becomes a security concern – What happens when one’s family member shares the password with someone outside of the household? What if this password is used to access other accounts, such as one’s email address? Speaking on the matter, cyber security specialist Jack Moore says that although password sharing “may sound innocent”, “when people are using the same password for their media service that they use for other accounts, it starts to become dangerous, and the risk of account compromises increases”. As a result, he advises users of streaming platforms to change their passwords regularly.
Aside from the security concerns, it’s interesting to consider why Netflix would be concerned about account sharing, since the streaming service gained around 37 million new subscribers in 2020 alone. Research conducted by Park Associates revealed that password sharing, and piracy have cost streaming companies an estimated $9 billion (£6.45 billion) already. Such figures, alongside the increasing security breaches, highlight that this recent crack down on account sharing has become a priority for streaming services across the globe.