Blog Post

Netflix’s new user profiles will mean freeloaders get even better service

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Netflix announced at E3 on Wednesday that the new user profiles that we’ve reported were in the works will make their debut this summer. The idea behind the new profiles is to cater to families whose members have disparate film tastes and thus each want their own movie recommendations — rather than pooled recommendations and histories that jumble the interface and make it difficult to find relevant content.

But there may be an unintended consequence of the new profiles: even better service for people who are illegally sharing passwords.


Of course, anyone with a busy household on the same streaming account would know that over time, finding a good movie or picking up where you left off on a TV show can be a major hassle.

By neatly organizing your family members into separate user profiles, there’s less mixing of tastes and histories — the media equivalent of keeping your Play Doh colors separate to prevent it from becoming a dried-out mass of marbled colors. You won’t have “Gut-Wrenching Horror Film” recommendations next to “Early Learning Show” titles anymore, and that small change will make a big difference in the general convenience of finding, streaming and enjoying media.

The same thing will happen when a person with a Netflix account lets half-a-dozen friends skim off for free — something plenty of 20-somethings do regularly. With the new mulitple profiles, it’ll be even easier for freeloaders to piggyback on someone else’s account. Users will be able to dole out passwords to their friends, set up user accounts, and then live happily on one subscription with separate histories and recommendations. It’s a new level of convenience for practically no money. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has said that he doesn’t think password sharing is that big a problem.

But maybe, just maybe, this user profile feature is the perfectly laid trap — the carrot positioned pristinely in the middle of an iron-jawed clamp called unauthorized access. Depending on what kind of data Netflix tracks between accounts, even a little thing like logging IP addresses could go a long way toward programming a bot that shuts down accounts with too many foreign connections.

Technically, illegal users could spend a year in jail for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which can lay the hammer down on password distribution for “exceeding authorized access.” Of course, it’s highly doubtful that Netflix or any other online media distribution company would take the time to prosecute such a thing. A terse account shutdown would be enough to dissuade users from skimming.

Netflix’s decision is a smart one, whether it’s a true convenience or the best piece of technological flypaper to catch rampant password distributors.

21 Responses to “Netflix’s new user profiles will mean freeloaders get even better service”

  1. Kind of a cliff-notes of my reply:

    “I pay for 24 hours of services a day for a month, I intend to get what I pay for. If I am unable to use the service for ANY of those 24 hours, then somebody else should be able to if I’m willing to allow it.”

  2. I changed my password so that the people that have my Netflix account password couldn’t access it any more, but it doesn’t ask to sign in again or anything, it just stays up unless for some reason they log out and have to type in the password (that they no longer have.) Is there a way I can make everyone have to log in?



  4. freetruth76

    So funny how many retards are defending “borrowing” accounts as something legit for measly 8 dollars a month. These same idiots will make a late payment on their cellphone account and in one swoop loose 40, 50 dollars like my cheapo roomate once did… lol That is 5 months of netflix.

    Such free riders are the disease of society… Usually they claim “those people who can’t pay it”. But what I see in practice is that some of the poorer people actually pay for all the services. Mommy and daddy supported cheapos or those lazy bums who imagine that working in a coffee shop and stealing netflix content is a lifestyle don’t… Your parents already spent at least 50k in your college degrees, the least you could do is to work enough to support $8 a month for netflix. I guess it so happens that they might be spending it on cellphone bill fines and the monthly fake drug quota.

  5. I love the scare tactics that this article states.

    “Technically, illegal users could spend a year in jail for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which can lay the hammer down on password distribution for “exceeding authorized access.”

    First off no such thing as an ILLEGAL user unless the user has a STOLEN password (which is a different story) Will get back to that later..

    Netflix only allows so many people to stream at once on the same account (either 2 or 3) so netflix has already built in the fact that family’s and friends are going to share accounts. While $8.00 a month don’t sound expensive – some people just cannot afford it. With all the MONTHLY fees for services these days, some fees are the straw the broke the camels back so people don’t buy it.

    We all know that sharing is not illegal. Even breaking the EULA or TOS is not ILLEGAL and a crime it is a CIVIL MATTER.. If I agree to not share my netflix account and they can prove I broke the TOS (terms of service) they can pursue me in CIVIL court for damages. Don’t give me any BS of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. People have been violating TOS for years. Back before Photo ID’s people would share GYM member ship passes or Health Club Passes with friends and or family members. If you were caught you had your membership revoked, if you fought it in court chances were the jury would rule in monetary damages to the club or gym for the free access you provided. But I honestly think that ius a bad analogy. Technical services, like netflix have SHARING built into them, despite their TOS when you sign up. The fact that I can have 3 netflix box playing in the same house under the same account at the same time is not an accident. They do it for a reason. They know that MOM AND DAD (who are likely the customers) are going to be using the service for convince of TV and Movie watching because they both likely work. The kids (lets say 2 kids in this family) depending on the age gap and sex are going to have different taste. So one might want superheros the other might want my little pony. Or as they get older, or have more of a gap, one might be on NETFLIX KIDS the other watching vampire diaries. Netflix knew what they were doing. Now lets expand the model a bit. Why should a frat house be any different. You have college campuses all over the country or even Non frats with whole floors of people who live in a communal setting. Even dorm rooms can be 2-4 people in it at a time. We all know these kids (unless they are part of some upscale frat at Harvard, Yale, ect..) are eating ramman noodles every night. So the fact that they all have laptops and a communal internet connection, they might find a value in many people sharing one account. Why should they be excluded from doing so? You telling me a FRAT HOUSE is not a family? Does the TOS differentiate for them? Should the 10 or 15 guys there (who are most likely to all agree on what to watch as opposed to each want a chance to view netflix solo) not be able to have ONE netflix account which is included in the budget as part of their house dues for all the members of the house? I say why not. Whats the big deal? They can only get 2 or 3 streams at a time. Even if the House ALPHA is watching “the notebook” with some sorority babe trying to get in her pants and the house noobs are all in one room watching the latest big bang theory and the rest of the guys decide to brew it up and watch “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” is it not the same as MOM AND DAD, KID one and KID 2? Now we all know college kids have varied scheduled. Get out the Frat house for a second. Lets go to a dorm room. You got TWO guys who don’t know each other. Guy one is a middle or upper class guy and he is partnered as a room mate with the lower class inner-city scholarship kid in the same dorm room. The inner-city kid is,most likely, going to have a laptop too and they both have access to the campus internet, but the inner-city scholarship kid is not going to have $100 a year for netflix. So should the KID from the upper class household, who has netflix decides “hey I have to live with this guy and we have to share space and bunks and a bathroom what is wrong with giving him my netflix password so he can entertain himself when I am not around or when he is not studying or out making new friends?” More often today do you see the KIDS who have MORE sharing things with the kids who have less most of the time in communal situations in college. Are you telling me this is a CRIME? I highly doubt it. I read the computer fraud and abuse act and it would be a very difficult stretch to try and make WILLING PASSWORD SHARING a crime for a private corporate SERVICE. It is not the same thing as running a cable line to your neighbors house and getting another cable box so he can watch off your account. Though I will admit I know people, next door neighbors, (thanks to WIFI) that do share a single internet service bill and due to close proximity routers and repeaters share a single internet access account. Is it theft? Yea in a sense it is, but good luck proving that. Not like there is a cable connecting house A and B anymore and if the router in the main house is secure chances are it will never come to light. There would be NO WAY for the corporation to know, aside from someone documenting the handshake agreement with the two neighbors and giving it to the internet company proving they colluded to share a single service between two households. I personally in the past have had dead spots in my own home for my own wifi and jumped on the better signal from next door because it was unprotected and later on I established such a good relationship with my neighbor that since I got no signal in my yard on my tablet (even with a repeater) that only my neighbors signal showed up, (which was secured now) I would say “hey DALE, whats your wifi pass? I got no signal out here.” and without blinking an eye he shared it with me.

    Lets get over the authors in accurate scare tactics of Netflix account sharing (and I guess you can included HULU, FLICKSTER and other streaming services). There is already a built in “share reasoning” that netflix has come up with because they know the service will have people SHARING. Defining who and who can’t share is none of netflix’s business. So a family of MOM AND DAD and KIDS is fine? Is MOM on west coast and Dad on east cost (separated) with kids fine too? How big of a family can you have? Is your sorority or fraternity house not a family? IS your room mate in college not eligible?

    People that are not family get together all the time and buy things together and share them. Businesses, Services, stocks, memberships, ect.. Why is Person A,B and C (or even D-Z) not allowed to buy one netflix account and share the password? Why is it different? It;s not like if 30 people have one netflix account, they can all watch at the same time 30 different shows? They can only watch 2 or 3 tops! at a time.

    Now I do want to point out one thing,. Stealing a Netflix password. Should you overhear your roommate say his password and use it or even go onto his computer and retrieve it (as there are simple password retrieval software, then I guess you can call it hacking) then that would be THEFT of netflix and the password. That I can see the Computer Fraud and abuse act coming into play and again being a HARD STRETCH here to apply even if netflix lawyers did try to prosecute They would be lucky if the judge said take it to a civil count and get damages. What are the damages??? ONE unautorised user is costing netflix $.25 cents a day. Seems like we really need to waste the tax payers time and money over this crap in court. If you can prove Person A stole a netflix password and used it for say 6 months (you cost’s netflix $45) Have the guy pay the $45 bux and a fine and maybe 180 days of community service. DO we really need to put these people in jail;? I would think that doing so would be a travesty of the criminal justice system.

    The second kind of theft is secondary sharing. Example: If the frat members are the only one who can have access to the netflix account in the frat house. Then, a member saying to his girlfriend,”here hunny this is our login information and password, you and girls at EI ETTA PI watch netflix at the sorority house, without the express permission of the entire house to share that info, that would be secondary theft. Again, at most should see a suspension of the account in question and a fine and damages of service fees lost to netflix. Maybe community service if you can prove a REAL CRIME has been committed here.

    We all share many things in this world. All these things have turned into a NICKLE and DIME bombardment from every company and service out there. There seems to be a monthly fee for everything these days. IT can get out of hand. While they do make more friendly sharing plans to combat redundant accounts and such (like cell phone family plans) and Family accounts (like xbox live family, or Office family or even windows 7 family edition”install the OS to 3 PCs!”) There are a lot of services that don’t share intentionally. Great example is GOOGLE accounts on android devices. I have ONE google account that I buy all my apps on. As long as I log into that account on my tablet I can access the same apps from my smartphone for free after paying for them only once under that account. Should I get a new phone and wipe my old one I don’t have to rebuy the app. NOW, my wife does have her own smart phone and tablet using her own GOOGLE account to buy her own apps and she does get apps I don’t get. But we also Share our GOOGLE accounts on each others smartphones and tablets so that whatever I buy should she want access to it She don’t have to buy it too. Don’t tell me this is a loophole. You know that google knew this was going to happen. There are very very very few apps that only allow a single device to have the full version at a time. 99.9% of the apps on android can be, as long as the same google account is logged into, shared across devices without end. As an experiment I opened a Google account ([email protected] with a simple passord easy to remember) and I bought TWO games from $4.99 each. I then shared that google account with a friend and told him that he should share it with a friend and tell that friend to share it with a friend and so on. At last count I know of 40 people who have the account on their phone. All 40 people have access to the Full version of the game I purchased. SO perhaps google didn’t mean for that to happen, but then again, who is going to mass share an account with hundreds of dollars of legally purchase apps, eventually someone is going to take advantage and lock the account to them-self and then everyone who contributed to it will be locked out. SO there is a good and a bad to it. Plus also people might not feel that secure on their own device knowing a certain account is community shared. Netflix will never let this happen. They will continue to allow 2 or 3 streams per account, start a new tier with 4 or 5 streams per account (for large family’s and groups – like frats perhaps) and that will be it. This is not a trap (I think the author needs to get Admiral Ackbar out of his head). I also think he was a bit zealous with his interpretation of “people who are illegally sharing password”.

      • LOL. Yeah. I saw how long it was and didn’t read it. I did read this part”

        “They will continue to allow 2 or 3 streams per account, start a new tier with 4 or 5 streams per account (for large family’s and groups – like frats perhaps) ”

        Um. They already do. 11.99 for 4 Streams.

  6. Michael Lawrence

    The way netflix works if you do not pay for more than 1 account subscription you only get a total of 2 viewings at the same time. 1 is actually a redundancy in case the other bugs and you dont want to wait to be able to continue streaming while they are working on your case. So technically even in a household only 2 machines at any given time anywhere can login and use the same account at the same time. Time sharing does not work as well unless all your friends are all working different shifts already and you are all paying towards an unlimited or very high data usage plan per month to stream non stop. They are not a business because they are giving out free goods all the time. Its because people find their service worth the cost for what it provides.

  7. Imma have to agree with the assessment that it probably isn’t that big a problem since it’s a) not outrageously priced to begin with
    b) not terribly hard to figure out if a recommendation is something you want to see even if the profiles aren’t split up
    c) limited to how many can actually log in at the same time

    I really wouldn’t bother trying to get a group of folks to split up one account. It’s just not pricey enough to make that worth the hassle. What am I going to do to run around trying to collect a buck a month from each of my pals for the privilege of having a Netflix account? Unlikely. Frankly I am pretty broke and I would just as soon have my own and let a friend borrow it to watch something if they want to every now and then, and even that wouldn’t even be too often unless they are someone who had nothing else to do but watch tv all day. I think I have only had it happen once that someone even asked, and that was because my live-in boyfriend was at HIS friends house and they wanted to watch something over there and he never has to type the password himself since it was already stored in his PS3.

    I can’t imagine bothering to do this. It would be more efficient to find a pirate site or something for free than to group share a single Netflix account. Who the heck is doing more than letting a pal watch every now and then? If they have to hog up that much that it would end up requiring separate recommendations, they really should get their own account anyway since I wouldn’t even be able to use mine if they were to use it that much, but in all probability the main reason that they don’t have one is because they just don’t have a use for one themselves except on occasion.

    If you can afford the broadband ISP to make use of Netflix, you aren’t going to be sweating bullets over the cost of the Netflix subscription. You either decide its worth it and pay, or you don’t need it because you are pirating the stuff elsewhere anyway. Netflix is a convenience and a bit of a luxury perk sort of thing, Not a high demand item for freeloaders in the first place as there are easier ways to freeload than splitting a Netflix account.

  8. LOL, I totally do that, albeit unintentionally. My buddy logged in to his Netflix account on my PS3 almost 8 months ago, but it never signed him off. To this day I can still start up my PS3 and get uninterrupted streaming access via Netflix for basically free. I would’ve figured that it’d kick me out by the time he logged in from a different location, or if we both tried to log in at the same time. Nope. I’ve been experimenting with it more, and last weekend I literally had it on for a full 72 hours-straight (passed out on the couch, woke up to watch some more) and it has yet to kick me off or ask me to re-enter the password.
    TBH tho, I think it really changed my perspective. I’ve literally had it for so long now and it stays connected so reliably, that I feel like I have a Netflix account. In fact, I’ve thought about it, and since I am getting ready to move, I’ve determined that if I ever lost access to my brother’s buddy’s account (and since I know I can stream to so many different locations concurrently) I would probably just buy my own account and share it across the house with my roommates. Especially since all I’m making use of is the streaming, and they offer streaming-only accounts in the $7 price range, it’s worth it.
    However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the differentiate users “feature” on the same netflix account isn’t some sneaky way to identify accounts abused in this way. In fact, I’d be surprised if that wasn’t one of the main purposes driving behind the development of this feature.

  9. Corpo Livin

    Convenience and Policy Enforcement…. Both of which are really only scratch the surface…. I believe Netflix is seeing that the sharing of accounts is a segment of its user base that needs to be exposed and at the same time mined for data. So convenience for the legit family uses. However they can mine data for the recommendation component while getting closer to accurately identifying fraudulent activity.

    Then if rolled out correctly will create more users out of the current customer base. Either through a upgrade to a family plan or the addition of a new customer because a shared account was flagged. It all due to Netflix providing more value through relevant results. Profiles give the ability to get more granular and specific to the individual(s) actually watching.

    Not to mention it will start to give even better demographic information. This is the piece that is needed to survive… having a demo pool identified and a content deliver system already establish…. operationalize that program and boom you have another source of revenue from content providers that want to test content appeal across test groups or just even tap into the rating data the demo pools generate…..

  10. What the hell is wrong with you? Why do you care so much if people share passwords? Do you work for Netflix or something? I shared my account for years. Now I’m the one getting a free ride from my best friend. What’s wrong with that?

    • Why would he care? Because thieving parasites like you and your retard friends screw up shit for the rest of us who actually pay people for the goods and services we provide.

      Netflix is 10 bucks a month. Are you all really that poor, or are you just immoral and/or stupid? Get your shit together.

      • How does his freeloading friend screw YOU up on Netflix? Is he also stealing your wi-fi or ISP bandwidth? I guess maybe if tons of people are doubling up at the same time it might affect the Netflix streaming speed, but as long as its faster than you can watch it, who cares? It would only matter if all the people “borrowing” an account were all watching at the same time of the initial member thereby doubling the demand on the servers, but what are the odds of that? Mostly it will be only one of them at a time, and that would be a potential competing downstream demand anyway.

        Let me guess, you also hate the fact that the POOR people in this country are so lazy and coasting along on their entitlements sucking all the money out of the pockets of the hardworking folks and killing the economy? ( As if it weren’t for the POOR people taking all the money, maybe the rich wouldn’t have to spend so much.)

        I find it amusing that people who say things like that also say that charity is the answer to social strife. Irony or sarcasm?

        • Wow. Some clueless people.

          Netflix uses the money you pay to support current services and create new ones. The less people who do that, the less Netflix can do.

          It is not about bandwidth. It is about using resources you are not paying for.

          • Is that right? How about getting your money’s worth? Netflix will not allow you to watch ANYTHING on more than 2 devices unless you have a plan to do so. What’s wrong with somebody using the service while I’m not? I pay for the service, if I could watch it while working I would… but since I can’t, a friend can. I pay for it, I should be able to share it unless I’m getting more than I paid for. Since, if able, I could watch netflix 24 hours out of every day of the month, then I pay for 24 hours out of every day of the month. So if I’m not watching it, somebody else should be able to.

            • Their pricing is not based on every account streaming video 24×7. Their price is based on the average use of the average user. If the average use of the average user goes up because of sharing, then the price will follow.

  11. Why share your account with friends since if more than 2 or 3 of them are watching Netflix it won’t let you log on to watch. I’m not that nice of a friend.