Some stranger is using your Netflix password. What’s wrong with that?

Sadly, it’s just a part of life now. Chances are that at some point in the last 12 months, you’ve gotten an email saying that someone signed into one of your streaming services. Maybe it’s Netflix. Maybe it’s Hulu. Or maybe you’ve just signed in to find a lot of stuff in your “keep watching” list that… you didn’t watch.

This all points to one thing: someone is using your username and password. If you’ve gotten an email about it, they recommend you changing your password. But, is that such a terrible thing?

“A victimless crime?”

Password sharing, whether it’s intentional or unintentional, is often seen as a victimless crime. After all, it doesn’t really matter to the bottom line if one person gets by without paying for a streaming subscription. At least that’s what people tell themselves.

Depending on who you are, you may have a lot of different ways of justifying this sort of thing. You may say that you, yourself, did things like this in your youth. Maybe you ducked into a movie theater through the back door, or used technology hacks to make free long-distance calls. You may say it’s no different from breaking the speed limit on a freeway (but doing it safely.)

You know what, if it were just you then it probably would be victimless. But, if everyone shared their password with just one person, that would potentially cut revenues in half for these services. Most likely what would happen is that they would double their prices to the people who do pay.

Canary in the coal mine

A long time ago, miners used to carry fragile birds down with them. If the bird passed out, it meant that there wasn’t enough oxygen or that there was something else poisonous in the air. Seeing the effect on the bird gave the miners enough time to get back up to the surface with no ill effects.

And that’s sort of what one of these events is. If you find someone’s using your Netflix password, it probably means that they got it from some larger hack that took place where your password was exposed. How many other services that you have use the same password? What if you use the same password for your bank as you use for Netflix? Finding out that someone’s using your streaming account is a warning that all sorts of other accounts may be compromised. It should inspire you to change your passwords on any site where you’ve given credit card information, especially for your bank or your master email account where you might store all your passwords.

Just a sad fact of life

You can add password maintenance to the list of “stuff we didn’t have to worry about when we were young.” Yes this modern world does impose some restrictions on us. You have to keep your phone charged, change your passwords now and again, and take your shoes off at the airport. As I write this there are a lot of other tradeoffs in the way we live our lives, but hopefully that’s all going to be over with soon. It’s all part of the big picture. We’ve made a lot of advances in the world in such a short time, and sometimes there are tradeoffs.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.