Unpopular opinion: When Netflix stops password sharing, it will be the right thing to do

Jennifer Jolly
Special to USA TODAY

I share all kinds of things with my 21-year-old daughter, who goes to college in another state: An Amazon account. Costco membership. Shoes. 

But starting sooner rather than later, I won’t be able to share my Premium Netflix account with my daughter anymore. Well, unless we pay extra for it, that is.

The same goes for my snowbird parents, who live with us “in the Lower 48” six months out of the year. While they’re under the same roof, we can share. When they’re back at their house in Alaska, they’re on their own.

Sorry, fam. You’re getting booted. Here are tentative answers to some of the most-asked questions so far and my thoughts on the crackdown itself: 

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When does Netflix password sharing stop? 

It could just be a matter of days now until Netflix cracks down on sharing passwords for anyone who doesn’t live in the same household in the United States. The streaming giant already made the changes in Canada, along with several other countries.

Netflix has not shared the specifics of exactly how the crackdown on password sharing will work in America yet. 

Last month, Netflix caused quite a kerfuffle when it published information on its United States Help Center page that seemed to lay out the updated guidelines. To be clear, Netflix is adamant that was a mistake. 

Netflix password sharing primer:When does Netflix password sharing end? How much will it cost you? What you need to know.

In an emailed statement, the company said that for a brief time, “a help center article containing information that is only applicable to Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru went live in other countries. We have since updated it."

NetFlix Canada password sharing

In Canada, where password crackdowns rolled out last month, the new ground rules seem to gel with what Netflix maintains, that passwords and accounts are for one household and one primary location, not for an ex and their fraternity brother, that cousin you only see during the holidays and your dog walker.

You can still share passwords, but only with up to two people you don’t live with, and you'll have to pay for it. People pay the equivalent of $5.88 more to, say, share an account with their daughter, who’s away at college under the Canadian plan.

Based on how it’s working so far in other countries, we can guess how the password crackdown will impact us when Netflix announces the updates in the U.S. 

How can I watch Netflix while traveling?

It looks like you’ll still be able to watch Netflix on your personal device or by logging into a new TV at a hotel or Airbnb when you travel, without worrying about getting logged out or paying extra after a specific amount of time on the road. 

Why Netflix should crackdown on password sharing 

Opinion alert and a warning that it’s not a popular one: Netflix’s crackdown seems fair. We all love getting something of value for free – or at least cheaper than everyone else – but it’s often unsustainable.

Maybe I only share my password with my daughter, and that seems fair. But other people might pay for one account and share it among 100 people. Is that the same? 

It’s kind of like that person who scarfs down an entire restaurant meal, then complains about it (loudly) to get a freebie. Or the person who wears a new outfit a few times (tags hidden away) and returns it for a full refund.

And what about those TikTok influencers who brag about making $15,000 a month buying deeply discounted products at Marshalls, then selling them for full price on Amazon to unsuspecting dopes like me? It’s not illegal, but it’s not exactly ethical, either. It makes sense that businesses have to reckon with that behavior and that the fallout impacts the rest of us too.

Netflix says that more than 100 million households use a shared password globally. While other streaming services still allow the practice, they don’t encourage it, and there’s a good chance many will follow in Netflix's footsteps here. Is it their fault that some people take too much advantage of a good thing? 

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech columnist. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.