Netflix is stepping up its efforts to prevent customers from streaming videos that are not legally available inside their country.
The company said Thursday morning that, in the coming weeks, customers will no longer be able to use “proxies or ‘unblockers’” to access content that’s not licensed to be streamed in their region. Netflix cited the outdated “historic practice” of licensing movies and TV shows based on geographic restrictions as the reason for the crackdown, while at the same time claiming it was “making progress” in its efforts to have more content universally available across different countries.
“If all of our content were globally available, there wouldn’t be a reason for members to use proxies or ‘unblockers’ to fool our systems into thinking they’re in a different country than they’re actually in,” said Netflix VP of Content Delivery Architecture David Fulger in a blog post.
While Netflix was light on the details on how this newfound effort to defeat proxy services would actually work, it’s clear the practice is widespread. Quick searches on Google and the Chrome Web Store turn up dozens of services that claim to let users access, say, the US version of Netflix while outside of the country. Use of these services isn’t some obscure tactic either, with plenty of users of Twitter and Facebook offering tips on how to use them to get around Netflix’s geographic restrictions.
One of these tools, called Hola, was criticized in mid-2015 after it was discovered that it was secretly reselling users’ idle bandwidth.
There are more than 5,700 titles available on Netflix in the US, according to FlisSearch.io, which lets users see which titles are available in their local country. The next largest are Canada (more than 3,600 titles) and Argentina (more than 3,570).
Netflix did not immediately return Motherboard’s request for comment on the methods it’s using to sniff out customers using these unblocking services.