Most Americans Don’t Think Password Sharing is Stealing




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Man on couch watching TV

U.S. consumers care about sharing, at least with passwords. A recent survey found that most U.S. residents don’t consider password sharing a form of stealing, and bans that restrict usage might cost streaming services subscribers.

The survey, conducted by Secure Data Recovery, a digital forensics service, asked 2,000 U.S. consumers about their password-sharing habits and which platforms they weren’t willing to pay for. One in three respondents said they share a password with a partner, while one in four share with friends. The survey shows 80% of the U.S. doesn’t consider it a form of stealing, and 69% reported using someone else’s password.

Of those who share passwords, 36% restrict rogue users to the guest account, while 24% want streaming buddies to ask before logging in. One in 10 account holders discovered someone accessed their account after they logged in at another house, contributing to the one in six people who have been kicked out of a streaming service after password bans were implemented. Only one in ten signed up for their own account after losing access.

The data underscores the fine line that streaming services must walk as they balance letting people share their passwords while ensuring its audiences properly pay for their service. In May, Netflix imposed a password-sharing ban, a first for a streaming platform, which restricts users of an account to a single household. 

While the streamer offers an add-on plan to use a subscription outside of the designated home, such as college students still using the family’s plan, the company saw a 17% decrease in views last year, according to NextTV. The company, however, also reported a surge in new subscribers after the ban was rolled out. 

Disney+ put restrictions on password sharing in November 2023, which first took effect in Canada, but Disney CEO Bob Iger said a wider rollout wouldn’t happen until 2025. Paramount CEO Bob Bakish previously said that he wasn’t looking at password bans at the moment.

While other platforms have yet to strictly enforce or implement password bans, price hikes keep people scaling back on the number of subscriptions they pay for. This can encourage people to practice password sharing to save some money, but it can also reduce churn with members who value this trend of unenforced password restrictions.

Secure Data Recovery’s survey shows viewers would likely give up Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ for good if password crackdowns took place across all services. Before the ban, 24.8% of Netflix users reported borrowing a password, ahead of 19.1% of Disney+ members, 17.5% of Max members, 17.2% of Hulu subscribers, and 14.6% of Prime Video users. Paramount+ users reported less password sharing, with 11%, followed by Peacock with 9.1%, Apple TV+ with 5.4%, YouTube TV with 4.7%, and Sling TV with 1.6%.

The report shows California, Ohio, and Florida residents are most likely to share passwords. Kentuckians are the least likely – and the most likely to consider it stealing – followed by Indiana and Wisconsin. One in two Californians pay for an ad-free service. Charlotte, North Carolina, is the city with the most password borrowers, and the most shared platform is Prime Video, followed by Chicago, Illinois, and Atlanta, Georgia. 

The study surveyed citizens in every state and various cities across the U.S. but excluded Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming from the results due to a lack of respondents. 

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