Netflix details how account share blocking will work

The company published interesting details regarding its verification system but we still have questions

The way Netflix plans to implement the much-discussed profile/devices verification system it will depend on soon just became a little clearer. But… just a little. (Image: Thibault Penin, Unsplash)

So Netflix is getting ready to finally crack down on password sharing, but we still don’t know how it plans to go about it in practical terms. You know, what’s going to happen if someone you gave your Netflix password to tries to watch a show on his/her TV or tablet or smartphone after the company enforces its new policy?

Well, we won’t know that for sure until enough people around the world try that and report their findings online but, in the meantime, the company has updated a number of answers in the “Sharing your Netflix account” topic of its official Help Center. Here are the ones that relate to the matter at hand.

Who can use a Netflix account
Anyone in your household (those who live with you at your primary location) can use your Netflix account. To ensure that your devices are associated with your primary location, connect to the Wi-Fi at your primary location, open the Netflix app or website, and watch something at least once every 31 days.

Share Netflix with someone who doesn’t live with you
People who aren’t part of your household will need to use their own account to watch Netflix. Devices that are not part of your primary location may be blocked from watching Netflix. It’s easy to sign up for Netflix and we offer a variety of plans. As always, members can change plans or cancel at any time. Netflix will not automatically charge you if you share your account with someone who doesn’t live with you.

Unblock a device (outside of primary location)
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. 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. When starting a new account or adding an extra member, members can transfer a profile from an existing account, including recommendations, viewing history, My List, saved games, settings, and more.

If someone is using your account without your permission, we recommend you review recently active devices for your account and sign out of any unfamiliar devices. You should also reset your password immediately.

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

Watch Netflix while traveling or from a different location
If you are traveling or live between different places, you can continue to enjoy Netflix. If you are away from your primary location for an extended period of time, your device may be blocked from watching Netflix. You can request a temporary access code to continue watching.

How Netflix detects devices within a primary location
We use information such as IP addresses, device IDs, and account activity to determine whether a device signed into your account is connected to your primary location.

How many devices can watch at the same time
Each plan determines how many devices can play Netflix at the same time, as long as those devices belong to people in the same household. Please refer to our plans and pricing for details.

All devices consumers want to use with their Netflix account will have to “check in” at least once a month. It might prove to be a small inconvenience to some.(Image: Bolivia Inteligente, Unsplash)

What we have so far learned about Netflix’s plan to limit account sharing, then?

One: it will heavily depend on defining a “primary location” for each subscription and deciding which profiles/devices linked to that are in line with its policy.

Two: consumers will have to “check in” with the devices they intend to use Netflix on at least once a month, so those are not blocked from accessing it. That’s not a totally unreasonable requirement on Netflix’s part, but it may prove to be frustrating if someone forgets e.g. to “check in” with his/her tablet or smartphone because he/she mainly watches Netflix on a TV and just wants to watch something on those on a whim a few weeks later.

Three: using your Netflix account while traveling will not be as easy as the company initially implied. It will require the use of a “temporary code” (obviously via e-mail so access to it is a must) that’s good for a week. After that consumers will have to get a new one and, presumably, there will be a limit to how many temporary codes one can request in a certain time frame (otherwise there’s no point in implementing this).

People traveling a lot will have to use temporary codes in order to access their Netflix accounts away from home. How smooth a process that will be remains to be seen. (Image: Bolivia Inteligente, Unsplash)

Taking all of the above into account, here are some questions we still do not know the answer to. How will Netflix be able to always tell which “primary location” is legitimately accessing its service, if the IP address of so many home Internet connections change so often? How does the company intend to handle 4G/5G connections to its service (it explicitly mentions Wi-Fi while defining the “primary location”)? What about the privacy/security of the data (e.g. device IDs) the company will be associating with each subscription? Will that data be available to anyone else besides Netflix?

Most importantly, though: will Netflix actively and automatically block all other profiles or devices its verification system flags as not legitimately linked to the “primary location”? Will it display a warning before it does so? How many times will it do that? Will it encourage people outside of the “primary location” to sign up for a new account on the first try? By claiming that “Devices not part of a primary location may be blocked from watching Netflix” the company seems to be leaving more than a few possibilities open. Not unwise, maybe?


Kostas Farkonas

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).




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