There's a good chance you are now a hacker. The bad kind. In the eyes of the law, you're no different than the modern day criminals who break into computers with bad intentions.
Thanks to a ruling in federal court this week, you commit cybercrime every time you do this seemingly innocent thing.
It may come as a shock to millions of Americans, but when you share your Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu, Spotify and other login accounts with anyone else, you are unwittingly breaking a federal law.
Here's why: If you share your password with friends or family, you have violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by granting "unauthorized access" to a computer or network.
This week, the conviction of a man named David Nosal was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Fransisco. Nosal, a former employee of a large research company, used a coworker’s password to access one of the firm’s databases. Based on the CFAA, the court saw this as no different than a criminal hacking into a computer or network with a stolen password or other nefarious means.
But civil liberties and privacy advocates, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), claim the court's interpretation is a real stretch from the intent of the law. Furthermore, the ruling paints a lot of innocent people with the same brush as serious cyber criminals. The EFF argues that when you willingly share your Netflix login and password with a friend, you have, in fact, authorized their access and they are not "hacking" your account.
What does this mean for you? In the short term, unless Netflix, HBO and the others decide to go after their customers, probably nothing will happen. So far, none of those services have shown any inclination to do so and have actually made it easy to share your accounts with others. But it does set a scary precedent that should give anyone who shares passwords some pause.
Do you share any accounts with friends and family? Will this ruling prevent you from sharing your passwords? Let us know in the comments below.