from the international-charade dept
And while the press and public engaged in a lot of hand-wringing about Netflix's decision to crack down on VPN use, it really wasn't much of a problem for most VPN providers to bypass Netflix's restrictions. And indeed, if you'd been paying attention, you would have noticed Netflix basically admitting that this "crack down" wouldn't be much of one, since even the company realized it was largely futile:
"We do apply industry standard technologies to limit the use of proxies,” (Netflix chief product officer Neil) Hunt says. “Since the goal of the proxy guys is to hide the source it’s not obvious how to make that work well. It’s likely to always be a cat-and-mouse game. [We] continue to rely on blacklists of VPN exit points maintained by companies that make it their job. Once [VPN providers] are on the blacklist, it’s trivial for them to move to a new IP address and evade."So why is Netflix engaging in a practice it realizes is largely pointless? To try and calm global broadcasting partners terrified by the fact that Netflix is re-writing the rules of global television and eroding the power of global media empires unchallenged for the better part of a generation. Netflix still needs to strike licensing deals with many of these companies, and to do so these broadcasters need to see Netflix as a partner, not a threat. So to keep these companies' executives calm, Netflix is basically giving a used-car-salesman-esque wink and saying "sure, we'll make sure your outdated regional restrictions still hold," even though Netflix's publicly-stated goal is demolishing region restrictions completely.
All of that said, Netflix's "crack down" on VPNs still has a notably negative impact on global user privacy and security. And as Dan Gillmor at Slate noted this week it's just downright annoying for the millions of paying customers that use a VPN everyday as a part of their routine security and privacy arsenal:
"No doubt this pleases the Hollywood studios, the control freaks of copyright. From this video watcher’s perspective, it’s beyond annoying. I don’t download Hollywood movies or TV shows from torrent sites. I pay, willingly, for streaming and DVD rentals and, for some special films, an outright DVD purchase. Yet I’m being punished when I stream video because I also want security. So are countless others who want to do the right thing. Tens of thousands have signed an online petition asking Netflix to reconsider."It's unlikely that Netflix plans to do much about this in the short term. It knows most VPN providers will continue to provide workarounds for customers who know better, and is apparently willing to alienate and annoy customers unwilling or unable to switch VPN providers for the temporary, artificial benefit of its broadcaster relationships. If Netflix continues to be successful the good news will be that regional restrictions will die; the bad news is it's relatively clear the company doesn't give a damn about the repercussions as we wait the decade or longer it's going to take Netflix to actually accomplish this.