Even Netflix doesn’t know what its password-sharing rules should be

Couple watching Netflix on laptop in bed
(Image credit: Shutterstock / WeDesing)

Even Netflix seemingly hasn’t decided what the Netflix password-sharing rules should be, as it’s recently made changes to those rules, only to revert to its original ones almost immediately.

If you’ve somehow missed it over the past year or so, Netflix has been saying that it wants to stop users from sharing their passwords. This is because, as the company sees things, these sharers are undermining its ability to invest in its platform and content – weakening its position as one of the best streaming services and reducing the amount it can invest in new best Netflix shows.

But exactly how it will restrict password sharing may not yet have been finalized – with the rules seemingly changing and changing again in the span of a few days.

On January 27, we shared an explanation of how Netflix will stop you from sharing passwords. The TL;DR is that Netflix will use device data and account users’ IP addresses to determine if they’re part of a household – a group of people living together. If they are a household then they can share an account, however, if Netflix thinks the people don’t live together then it will periodically ask users who may not be in the household to verify their device, using a code sent to the account’s registered email or phone number.

Though if you were to visit the Netflix account sharing FAQ on January 31, 2023 (you can still do this by using the Wayback Machine archive) you’d see that instead of this verification process, the rules instead said that users must connect to the Wi-FI associated with the account’s primary location “at least once every 31 days.” If you went past this deadline then you would be locked out, and could only regain access to Netflix by using a temporary seven-day code or by signing up for a new Netflix account.

But if you visit the page today (at the time of writing that's February 2, 2023) it’s gone back to displaying the original verification method. The company told The Streamable that the change was a mistake, and that the information is only meant to be applicable in Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru; a spokesperson reportedly added that if a significant change was coming then it would communicate this to customers ahead of time. 

That being said, even if the change was a mistake, we wouldn't be surprised if the new rules were indeed set to hit regions beyond the current three-country-long list soon. With Netflix reportedly gearing up to launch its paid account-sharing service worldwide soon, it could also be preparing to update its rules. 

If that’s the case, then the new rules would seemingly benefit some account sharers more than others. They would make it easier for people who live nearby to share passwords – you just have to visit the person you’re freeloading off once a month – but they would make it much more difficult for those who live far apart to split an account. 

Ein Überblick zu den Netflix-eigenen Inhalten

A selection Netflix's original shows and films (Image credit: Netflix)

…pray Netflix doesn’t alter it any further 

We don’t expect this will be the last time Netflix will make changes to its rules when it comes to password sharing. 

In our Netflix password-sharing guide, we already outlined that VPNs may cause some headaches for the streamer. Because these tools allow users to hide their IP address and device details – information Netflix has said it will use to track who is and isn’t in a legitimate household – it may impose restrictions on people using VPNs. This could mean it will block the use of VPNs entirely – a restriction it already imposes on subscribers on its 'Basic with ads' tier – or it could simply ask VPN users to verify their device more frequently than non-VPN users.

While unlikely, we may also see Netflix making its password-sharing rules less restrictive. Parts of South America have already had the chance to trial its new paid password-sharing scheme, and subscribers there hated it. If there’s a widespread backlash when the service rolls out worldwide, Netflix might decide that password sharing is a necessary evil, especially as there are lots of streaming services that aren’t so strict, which users could abandon Netflix for.

We’ll have to wait and see what the streamer decides to do next, but all signs suggest that it’ll be much harder to share your Netflix password in 2023. So if you've beens sharing someone's account, and have a new favorite show you haven't had time to binge yet, either get watching while you can, or get ready to pay for your own Netflix account.

If you're planning to leave Netflix when password-sharing restrictions are brought in, here are the best Netflix movies you need to watch before you unsubscribe. And if you're thinking about joining one of its rivals then here are the best Disney Plus shows, and the best Prime Video movies that you might want to check out.

Hamish Hector
Senior Staff Writer, News

Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.