If you’ve “cut the cord,” it was likely to save money. And what better way to save money than to not spend any at all? We’re talking about the popular taboo of sharing passwords to streaming services. Aside from the social faux pas of mooching off your roommate’s Netflix subscription, there are other reasons you shouldn’t share your streaming passwords. The guilty aren’t alone: Media research firm Magid found that 35% of millennials and 19% of Generation X subscribers share streaming service passwords.
Note: We aren’t talking about sharing premium plans that allow for multiple screens and profiles. Those are designed for sharing with members of your household, for a higher price. We’re specifically addressing the practice of sharing a personal account with friends or family you don’t live with.
You’re opening yourself up to a security breach
Sharing passwords of any kind can risk your online security, no matter how trustworthy the person you shared with. Even if they wouldn’t intentionally do anything to compromise your account, if their own online access or computer were to be hacked, your password would be among that vulnerable information.
“Once you give someone else your password, you lose control of it completely. Over 50 percent of internet users reuse the same password across multiple accounts. That means there are likely millions of us sharing passwords with people whom we think we can trust but are also giving those same people access to other accounts we own—including financial accounts.”
Sam Cook, editor at Flixed.io.
Even if you have a unique password for all your accounts, letting someone else sign in still gives them access to sensitive information. Josh Wardini, Co-Founder of Serpwatch, told us “The majority of streaming platforms are connected with your credit cards. You need to fill out all of the details from your credit card once you purchase a plan and whoever has your password can access this information.” Sharing a streaming password isn’t as simple as letting a friend borrow a DVD — it’s more like handing over a key to your house.
You’ll also get less accurate recommendations
Most streaming services use algorithms to recommend and curate content based on what you watch. When you share a service, those recommendations aren’t personal anymore. You’re less likely to encounter a new favorite show or a niche movie if the data input is from multiple people.
Matt Benn from Soundplate Records put it best when he told us, “The platforms are constantly building your ‘taste profile.’ The data they have on your viewing/listening habits help to make sure you get the best possible on-platform experience. By sharing your password and allowing others to use your account the platforms will not get a real sense of what you like and what you don’t. Part of the magic of streaming platforms is there always seems to be something you want to see front and center but this only works if the platform knows and understands your own personal taste.”
It can also get pretty annoying when your “Continue Watching” log is bogged down by your friend’s obsession with Japanese reality TV shows. Though it may seem generous, sharing passwords can hinder your experience with a streaming platform.
Some services are cracking down
For streaming service companies, sharing passwords can be viewed as revenue loss. Rather than paying for their own accounts, potential subscribers are splitting costs or dodging payments altogether. Upcoming streaming service Disney+ may be one of the first to enforce some restrictions. Disney and Charter Communications have announced a new distribution agreement for Hulu, ESPN+, and Disney+. In their announcement, the two have “agreed to work together on piracy mitigation. The two companies will work together to implement business rules and techniques to address such issues as unauthorized access and password sharing.” As of now, it sounds like only those who get Disney+ through Charter will be affected. But we’re willing to bet this could catch on if it works.
But some think password sharing isn’t all that bad
Despite the theoretical tons of money a streaming service is missing out on, several companies have voiced favor for sharing passwords. In their eyes, it’s more people viewing their content, more mouths spreading the word, and addicts who may eventually cash in on their own. Netflix has said sharing passwords is a positive thing, and HBO has said they’re in the business of building addicts and marketing to the next generation.
And Sam Cook told us that services are likely factoring this into their costs anyways, “One result of password sharing is likely an overall increase in how much each subscriber has to pay, in all. With millions of people sharing accounts, Netflix and other services probably factor this into cost per month of each account to help subsidize the lost potential. This is just part of their business practice at this point.”
While there are some downsides and personal risks to sharing passwords, a streaming service is unlikely to cancel your account for it.