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Groaning over crackdown on passwords

The announcement entertainment streaming giant Netflix will be cracking down on password sharing has been met with everything from soft murmurs of complaint to screams of agony.

At one time, passwords were only shared with our nearest and dearest. As online content has become most people’s optimal leisure go-to, passwords are increasingly strewn about like confetti. Music? Here’s my Spotify login. Movies, documentaries, and binge-worthy serials? That’ll be your Netflix details; thank you.

People draw the line at sharing banking account passwords, but Netflix and similar services have been fair game. Until now. Unfortunately, we here have been chosen to be one of the first in the crackdown.

For some of us, this raises serious questions about how we spend our leisure time and who pays for our entertainment. Most importantly, why should we pay for something that up until now has been free? If we are given something for nothing and then asked to pay for it, a normal human response would be to refuse. I’m sure many householders will be considering doing just that.

During the lockdowns and for much of the pandemic, streaming services – especially Netflix – became a favourite downtime escape. Subscriptions soared, along with the Netflix share price. The bosses were happy, the viewers were happy, and passwords were shared around like cupcakes at a kiddie’s birthday party.

Soon, people here will have more to think about than which show to watch. Later this month, Netflix starts what promises to be a worldwide crackdown on account-sharing. About a million Kiwi subscribers are thought to pay for the service. A further unknown number, possibly hundreds of thousands more, are believed to be watching for free by logging on to the accounts of friends and families – generally from a different place than the account holder.

Netflix is expected to ask local customers to confirm their primary location when they next log on and then block access from other places unless the primary customer confirms it is them, on holiday. There will be an option to add up to two additional locations, for a fee. Goodbye to children free-watching from Mum or Dad’s account while away at varsity. Goodbye also to cousins, best friends and the neighbour’s babysitter’s stepbrother, all logged on for free.

People now have a choice, pay for Netflix or be booted off the site. An interesting conundrum. Netflix is not the only streaming giant. People may well look at what it offers and decide to forego the dubious luxury of unlimited content from one provider. Especially when it was previously free.

Of course, it also raises the question of how we use our leisure time. Instead of watching a far-from-optimal movie or series, people could decide to go for a walk with the dog, visit their friends, cook themselves a nice meal, or do any one of the hundreds of things they used to do before.

At a time when the cost of everything is rising, I suspect Kiwis will be deciding if giving Netflix even more cash is a good move.

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