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Survey: 84% of US Netflix users share their password

In today’s world where online subscriptions are ubiquitous, sometimes sharing passwords means putting sensitive information at risk. And it’s especially inadvisable in this golden age of hackers and digital thieves, suggests authentication platform Beyond Identity. Nevertheless, sharing streaming accounts, such as Netflix and Hulu, is incredibly common.

The company recently surveyed over 1,000 people across the United States about password sharing for their subscription services. The report revealed the percentages of every major service provider sharing their accounts, the damage it caused to account owners, and how people attempted to remove moochers from their accounts.

Main findings:

  • Three in 10 people say all their streaming accounts have the same password.
  • Nearly 30% of people who experience privacy issues due to account sharing have had their financial information compromised.
  • Nearly 40% of account sharers won’t remove someone from their account because they want to avoid confrontation.

Sharing is not equal on all platforms. This first part of the study asks respondents which platforms they subscribe to, which ones they make fun of, and exactly who they share (or borrow from).

Netflix was more likely than any other streaming service to be “mooched”, although the platform itself probably doesn’t think of it that way. The company has always been soft on password sharing capabilities and has even encouraged this behavior somewhat in the past. Eighty-four percent of users of this platform have shared the account with at least one other person. That said, more than half of Hulu, Disney+, and Prime subscribers also reported mooching.

Some platforms had interesting mooching and sharing dynamics. While something like Disney+ was perhaps healthier for family-style sharing, HBO Max was mostly shared among friends. HBO is known for its “adult content,” which people probably won’t want to tear away from their parents. Disney+, on the other hand, can be shared with a variety of close contacts, as that particular platform had the highest moocher-to-subscriber ratio, averaging eight moochers to every three subscribers.

Passwords are the biggest cybersecurity threat to any site or account. On streaming services, password sharing also came with its own risks. This part of our study examines some of the consequences, including financial ones, that respondents experienced as a result of shared accounts.

Almost half (46%) said someone shared their password with someone else without their knowledge, while 31% saw someone else change their password without their permission. Often, this sensitive information was shared with complete strangers. Importantly, the password they shared or lost was not always just their password for Netflix or Hulu: many respondents admitted that it was the same login key as they used to access other accounts such as music streaming (67%), social media (43%), even their bank (12%).

This widespread sharing of passwords, combined with the lack of unique passwords for financial information, has led to horrific experiences for a significant portion of Americans. Almost a quarter said someone had both accessed and used their credit card information in this way. Less frequently, but far from unknown, 15% of password sharers said someone also accessed and used their bank account information. It’s no wonder passwords are getting completely obsolete.

With all of these risks that respondents were directly facing, Beyond Identity wanted to dig a little deeper into why they were putting themselves at risk in the first place. Were they able to share the costs of these services, or was it simply out of the goodness of their hearts?

Especially since the pandemic, streaming services have almost become a necessity. People are certainly spending on them like they are: the average American currently pays $56 a month on streaming services alone, even in an age when groceries are becoming relatively unaffordable. Much of this cost was also avoided by moochers. On average, streaming services lose $672 per moocher per year. Unsurprisingly, streaming services are taking steps to plug this money drain. Netflix recently announced that it would start charging those who share accounts, causing an uproar among customers.

So why are people so willing to bear the cost and share the benefits of streaming with others? Our study found this was because 48% of account holders live with their moochers. Presumably, that means they’re likely to watch shows together, perhaps on the same screen, and there’s no skin on the account holder’s back. But often people were asked to share and they wouldn’t say no. Only 19% of people could tell that the other person using the account actually helped pay for the service.

Whether your account has been hacked or Netflix is ​​starting to crack down on sharing capabilities, there are plenty of reasons to start kicking moochers out of your subscriptions. This final piece of research asks respondents to share their personal methods of removing people from their accounts.

Changing behavior is obviously very difficult. Respondents were more than twice as likely to let their credit card information be hacked and used than to update their viewing habits. Everyone from neuroscientists to psychologists and personal trainers has studied the difficulty of behavior change — yes, it’s hard, but it’s also worth the effort and can prevent everything from illness to depression. Obviously, this can also help prevent financial theft.

For those who took the initiative and started the process of separating from their moochers, the most common approach was to change the password themselves and let the person know that they would no longer have access. Many account owners took the less direct route and instead changed the password in the hope that the other person would never contact them (24%) or simply ignored them when they did ( 19%). However, these efforts do not deter all moochers: 30% of moochers said they would gladly ask the owner for the new password if they noticed it had been changed.

Changing behavior is clearly not easy. Even with passwords leaked without authorization, credit cards stolen, and moochers having nothing to pay, respondents were often still reluctant to adapt their behavior. And when they had the courage, they were often unable to update the narrative honestly and resorted to excuses.