Can Password Sharing Land you in Jail?

A recent ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has digital privacy groups concerned that password sharingΒ could become a criminal act. Tech 2U is here to go over the Β details of the ruling and give our viewers the rundown on the issue.

We all have given out a password for our Netflix or HBO Go account at some time, but is it legal? The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is an anti-hacking law that was established in 1984 that says “Accessing a computer without authorization is a crime.” The problem is the language used in the act is too vague, and isn’t clear enough as to establish if giving out your password is a violation of terms of service. Since there is no language that is determining who gives authorization to use an account, it can be interpreted either way. On one hand, the company that owns the site can claim that they are the ones who authorize users to use certain accounts, therefore people sharing credentials to accounts would violate the terms of service, and be illegal. However on the other hand, the user could claim that since it is there account, they are the ones who authorize other people to use it, in this case, it would not be illegal to share credentials.

Netflix has publicly stated that sharing your passwords with others is totally fine, as long as you don’t re-sell the service. Netflix even embraces the practice by giving the account multiple profiles to use. HBO Go’s CEO has also stated that they don’t care if you share your password as it is great for marketing the next generation of viewers. Given these statements by the companies, actually getting prosecuted for sharing your passwords is basically unheard of. There is no reason to be concerned unless you are taking it to extreme levels but it is always beneficial to know the laws and that prosecution is at the whim of the prosecutors. So for the time being, don’t worry about sharing your Netflix password with your family, but always be aware that that the terms and services of these companies could change at anytime, and the laws regarding them are up to interpretation.

App of The Week:

Noisli is a great app aimed at helping you stay focused on your tasks at hand. The app creates sound ambiance that includes a variety of different natural sounds such as birds, waves, fireplace, and rain. You also get the ability to blend different sounds together to create the perfect zen environment. The app is $1.99 and can be found on iOS, Android, and as a Chrome extension.

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Video Transcription:

Interviewer: Could sharing your Netflix or your HBO Go password land you in jail? A recent ruling by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco as digital privacy groups concerned that common password sharing practices could be criminalized. So what’s the deal here? We’re bringing in Michael Jon Wispy from Tech To You with details. Mike nice to have you back.

Interviewee: Thank you.

Interviewer: Okay. So really, is that like the tag on the on the mattress it where says by penalty of law. I mean well, is anybody going to do jail time?

interviewee: Well I’ll get to that, but consumer reports actually indicates that 46% of people who use streaming services are sharing their password and it is with people who aren’t in the household. So you think about that, and in terms of the law, that is against the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Interviewer: Really?

Interviewee: It was actually established in 1984, which was aimed to stop hacking because hacking was starting to get big in the 80s.

Interviewer: But wouldn’t Netflix and some of these others just be more concerned that they’re losing business other than the criminality of it?

Interviewee: Well that’s exactly it. I mean that that’s an example of the law, and technology is being outpaced by law. The other way around is law is being outpaced by technology. So you are actually possibly violating terms of service if you’re doing that, but generally, Netflix and HBO Go they don’t really care about you sharing the passage because the content is their marketing tool. That’s what they want you to see the content. They want you to get hooked to a Game of Thrones for example. And if you can share the password with people, it’s more exposure for them.

Interviewer: So they’re okay with that?

Interviewee: At the moment they’re actually okay with it, but in the future perhaps they might not, and the law is actually on their side if they did not want to enforce that.

Interviewer: So what will so down the road, should customers, viewers, be concerned because they may start changing it up a little bit?

Interviewee: I would be concerned because the actual wording in the CFAA, which is Computer Fraud Abuse Act, it’s actually the…I’ll get the wording right. It’s establishing the authorization. So if you’re accessing something without authorization, it could be…the way that authorization is defined could be up for question. But right now they’re not bothered about it. It’s fine. They’re letting you do it but just be aware that in the future, they may start enforcing it. And the Supreme Court is really going to have to get involved and see if they can change the wording in this, too.

Interviewer: So for right now it’s kind of in an intermediary stage, it’s not like if you’ve wired your house to get free HBO?

Interviewee: No it’s not.

Interviewer: Now you see people with SWAT teams come to your house about that.

Interviewee: Exactly. Someone is actually paying for the service and the problem is that they’re sharing that password so someone else doesn’t have to pay.

Interviewer: Right. Free HBO at your house. Nobody is paying for anything.

Interviewee: Exactly. The Way HBO see it you’ll like the service so much that you’ll eventually buy it yourself. They only let you stream three simultaneous streams, HBO Go, and Netflix can be from one to four. So if you have five people trying to stream it’s not going to work that person. So they’re eventually going to buy it. That’s they want it.

Interviewer: Okay that makes sense. Okay, you have an app of the week for us.

Interviewee: Yes my app of the week is called Noisli.

Interviewer: How do you spell that?

Interviewee: I will spell it for you. It’s N-O-I-S-L-I.

Interviewer: Okay, what’s it do?

Interviewee: It’s $1.99 from…you can get it IOS or Android, and it plays a variety of background noises. You can select a rain, waves, forest with birds and all that kind of nice ambient noise that you might want to…

Interviewer: A sound machine.

Interviewee: Kind of, yeah.

Interviewer: So would that be…I guess a lot of people sleep with their phone next to their bed, this would…because we have actual plugin sound machines in our home. So you don’t hear…

Interviewee: So if you live near a busy road…

Interviewer: So if you’re hearing helicopters in the middle of the night trying to get us…

Interviewee: People rummaging around outside.

Interviewer: People walking through the house and you don’t know…

Interviewee: Exactly.

Interviewer: We have that, so this would come to the phone.

Interviewee: Yes. So you have on the phone which you have next to your bed usually anyway. It plays some nice, soothing, ambient noise. And you can set a timer on it so it’s not playing all night. Say it takes you an hour to get the sleep you just set it for an hour.

Interviewer: $1.99.

Interviewee: It’s only $1.99. It’s cheaper than buying an alarm clock these days.

Interviewer: I like that. All right. So you can share the Netflix password for now?

Interviewee: You can do it now. Don’t worry about it too much. You’re not going to be arrested and HBO Go and Amazon Prime other things like that you can share right now, but just be careful. They could change the law.

Interviewer: You never know when they’re going to come after you. If that’s good right now. Mike Wispy, Tech To You. Thank you. Amy?

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