Netflix is one of the most popular streaming video subscriptions in the world, with over 50 million global customers. But, not every Netflix subscription is created equal. Netflix's catalog of available films and shows changes depending on the country you live in.
Now, the streaming service is cracking down on users who are trying to access content from other countries using a popular but devious trick.
Some Netflix users have found that they can access Netflix content from other countries using VPNs or proxies. Those are tools I've told you about before that can disguise your physical location and protect your information by routing your activity through a series of secure servers or a private network located somewhere else. Basically, this tricks Netflix into thinking the user is in another country and lets them log in to that country's Netflix catalog
This fake-out isn't hard to pull off and it's driving movie studios nuts. Netflix negotiates specific contracts with the studios, and they don't like it when you're watching movies they haven't licensed in your country. So, Netflix is now deploying tactics to block proxies, VPNs and the subscribers using them to beat the system.
Sony actually has an agreement that requires Netflix to “'use such geolocation bypass detection technology to detect known web proxies, DNS based proxies, anonymizing services and VPNs which have been created for the primary intent of bypassing geo-restrictions.'” Now, it looks like Netflix is doing just that.
Netflix is reportedly testing a variety of blocking methods. From querying the user’s time zone through the web browser or mobile device GPS and comparing it to the timezone of their IP-address, to forcing Google’s DNS services in the Android app.
Right now, it looks like Netflix is just testing out the VPN-blocking tactics. But, it will probably begin blocking those services more aggressively soon to keep the studios happy.
I understand why Netflix is doing this, but it could end up hurting user privacy, too. Many people use VPNs simply to protect their privacy, passwords and other important info online. If Netflix starts blocking all VPNs, it could require honest users to disconnect from those secure networks when they want to watch their favorite movies and shows.