Netflix is "cracking down" on password sharing. If you give your account details out to other people, they're going to let you know that they know. Which of the following do you think Netflix will do?
1. Switch you to the DVD plan, which sends you strange silvery discs that supposedly contain movies, but how do I access them? Do I tape it to the back of the TV? Point my phone at it?
2. Reset your viewing history so you don't know if you've finished Episode 9 of Season 17 of "Mrs. Marple's Cozy Village Evisceration Mysteries" or left off on Episode 3 of Season 31. They do all tend to run together.
3. Add three minutes to the loading screen so you get irritated, turn the TV off and back on to see if that fixes it. And it does — but now the sound is a quarter-second out of sync, and it drives you nuts, so you look for something that's subtitled. Except the subtitles are now light gray and hard to read, so you go to the dubbed version, and everyone's saying the name of the person to whom you gave your password.
4. When you access the service, you get a picture of a jaded guy in a police interrogation room holding up the name of the person to whom you gave the account number and password. "More like NOTflix, pal," he says. He leaves the room. Every show you try to see is just the same empty room with its stained wall.
5. Send you an e-mail saying, "We noticed you logged in from Madagascar when your billing address is in South Dakota. Just wanted to make sure it was you."
It's No. 5. This is what the news stories mean by "cracking down." It's like being beaten with an ostrich feather.
Full admission: I share the password with someone not in the house: our daughter, who's in college. As I am sure she would be happy to hear, technically she is still part of the family. I'm confident that she has not shared the password with any of her friends because she grew up with Dad closing doors and noting that he was not paying to heat the outdoors, so it seems unlikely he would pay for a friend to hang on the side of the family account like a remora.
In the future they will crack down more, and require two-factor ID. When you call up Netflix on the road, you will have to sign in with your phone. Sounds fair, right? But just imagine you're in a motel in 1977, and you turn on the TV, and the phone rings.
"Hello, Mr. Suchensuch? We see you're trying to watch ABC's 'Movie of the Week' on a Motorola Quasar model number MQ-9ewre4. Usually you watch ABC on a Sony Trinitron model number Z-304b located at latitude-longitude coordinates 46.8772° N, 96.7898° W. We just want to make sure this is you."
Nowadays we think: No prob, sure, that's me. Then: You would sit in the closet encased in tinfoil and listen for helicopters.
I know — it's irritating how they know the location from which you log in. Makes you paranoid. Makes you wonder how much privacy we've willingly surrendered. What business does Netflix have knowing where I am at all times?
Who do they think they are? That's my cellphone's job.
firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks