Information Technology and Ethics/Account Sharing

What is it?


Multiple people using one (usually paid) account that can potentially hold credit card or other personal information. The goal of account sharing is to save money while gaining access to premium features.Account sharing can also be done to give access to short term users or users who would not benefit from having a full premium account

Ethical issues?


Accounts can be shared with an unauthorized person inside or outside the household, and there are ethical issues associated with each kind of sharing. One issue is that if parents share their streaming services accounts with their children, the children may have access to inappropriate contents. However, other people think that this is not an issue since the parents can limit and control what their children can access, and there are features provided by the streaming providers to protect the children from inappropriate contents.

Another ethical issue is that some people may use other people login credentials without their knowledge. For example, a girl and her family used her ex-boyfriend account to access streaming video services such as Netflix[1]. In this case, morally the girl should not use her ex-boyfriend account. It also can raise the issue of sharing copyrighted contents such as E-books. Beside the legal issue of violating the author and the publisher copyrights through sharing accounts to access E-books, it is also a moral issue of making a person who has not paid for the contents to gain access to the book’s contents.

Why is it socially accepted?


A survey by Consumer Reports National Research Center shows that 46% of Americans share their login credentials with other people[2] which means that account sharing is widely used, and there are variety of reasons. One of the reasons is that some streaming video providers and music industry do not state a strong policy that prevents account sharing which make it legal for the customers to share their accounts passwords. For example, HBO’s CEO Reed Hastings said that sharing accounts passwords with other people is acceptable and beneficial to make more people become addicted to their services[3]. In addition, some of these providers allow more than one simultaneous stream, so people feel that there is nothing wrong with sharing their accounts credentials. Another reason is that there may be more than one person in a household making the consumer feel that it is not necessary to subscribe to the same service for each person. Following are some other reasons:

  • To help the other person to save money.
  • Because they are paying for the service together[4].

Positive effects




User can get publicity of benefits from sharing account. There are examples about apple family id. The most common example is using shared Apple ID in the iTunes Store and using another Apple ID in iCloud, iMessage, and FaceTime. In this way, you don’t have to get another Apple ID for I Cloud, and FaceTime. And also you don’t need to purchase the movie, app, and music for twice.


Gaining users you might not otherwise have gotten


The companies indirectly gain users that they don’t have before. There is an example about family ID from an article. The article said that for families, there are distinct advantages to having multiple Apple IDs. It allows you to share the things you want to share such as Apps, songs purchased from the iTunes Store, Movies, etc. For this way, family will use the apps more and more. And then users and subscriber using the company’s product will be increased. [6]

User Feedback


We can see that Because of using account sharing, the users are increased. After the number of users is increased, the company can get a lot of information about the app and users such as user’s characteristics, using tendency, satisfaction of users, needs. From the feedback, the company will market the target, revise the program, and get the value more easily.

Negative effects


Loss of revenue


The company must loss their revenue because of account sharing. There is a huge impact on account sharing in online streaming company. An article about Netflix said that Streaming services like Netflix and HBO may be losing out on as much as $500 million US a year to people who share their passwords. All in all, Netflix now has 65.6 million paying customers, but the actual number of people with access to the service is likely much more, due to the ability to have multiple users on one account. So, the companies have to make the other way to solve these problems. [7]

Not accurate data


If the number of users is increased, the data that analyze users can be accurate, specific, and important. However, if the most of users are fake user or users who have sharing account, the data will be useless. It’s not accurate. So, the company must recognize the user’s characteristics that the user is from sharing accounts or not.

Fraud Chances increased


For the sharing account, someone who has sharing account with you will be trying to reach you all the devices. This small change can make it much easier to be reached your drive, other accounts, and personal information. This does have a noticeable disadvantage: you cannot always reach the intended person. So, fraud chances from the sharing accounts will be increased.

Allowed Account Sharing


NetFlix [8]


Netflix accounts can have multiple profiles or users on one paid account. This is useful so that if a family has one netflix account, one user will not see recommendations for shows they have no interest in. In order to access the accounts, everyone needs to know the login email and password limiting security. They have three levels for plans. The lowest is $7.99 per month and lets you watch on 1 screen at a time in Standard Definition and download videos on 1 phone or tablet. The second level is $9.99 per month and lets you watch on 2 screens at a time in HD and download videos on 2 phones or tablets. Finally, the highest plan is $11.99 per month and lets you watch on 4 screens at a time in HD and Ultra HD and download videos on 4 phones or tablets. These levels are beneficial for both streaming quality and for the amount of people using one account.

Amazon [9]


Amazon lets two accounts be joined together so that both accounts get the same access to Amazon Prime benefits. The accounts will share payment methods but each account will remain active, only sharing the benefits. These benefits include shipping, digital, and discounts and exclusive offers offered to Amazon Prime members. Amazon also has Family Vault where up to five members can share unlimited photo storage as an individual. Family Vault also enables the users to add photos to the “Family Vault” where they become public to everyone on the account. Twitch Prime is aimed for gamers and Twitch users. With an amazon Prime account, a user can add four other users to their Twitch Prime account giving everyone access to ad-free Twitch viewing and exclusive chat icons. Also, the user and attached accounts gain access to free games, in-game loot, and a free channel subscription for the primary account holder.

iCloud [10]


Apple has family sharing where up to six people can join accounts to share each other’s iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases without sharing accounts. The joined accounts can also share photos, a family calendar and with a paid Apple Music family membership, everyone gets the same access to music with iTunes.

Steam Family Sharing enables users to play all the same games purchased by someone else while still maintaining your own progress in the game and earning your own achievements. Steam allows up to five accounts and ten devices to have access to the family sharing plan. most games on the accounts are shareable and all games that are sharable, are shared. However, a shared library may only be accessed by one user at a time. Meaning, If the primary user who purchased the game decides to play a game while another user is playing it, they will be given a few minutes so either buy the game for themselves, or same and exit.

Hulu, similar to Netflix, added profiles to their accounts making it easier to share accounts. The profiles let Hulu show content related to what they believe you would also likes based on previous content watched.

Xfinity allows customers to add “guest” usernames to their account to give them access to content while not giving them access to your private data. This allows them to watch TV shows and movies available online through Xfinity Stream. When setting up the account, the user can also specify the age of the new guest user to limit their watching. This is useful for setting up an account for a child. Once accounts have been added, the service can be used on five devices and the devices can be managed by the primary user.

Google Play Music and Youtube Red [15]


Google Play Music and Youtube Red offer a family plan where the primary account is charged $14.99 a month for unlimited access to Google Play Music for up to six users. All users may stream music at the same time via their respective accounts. Google Play Music may also be used on up to ten devices. With the Family Plan, all users are also given access to apps, movies, and games purchased through the Google Play Store. As an added bonus, all users are also given access to YouTube Red. Giving them uninterrupted music and background videos, ad-free content, offline content, and YouTube original shows.

Spotify [16]


Spotify offers a family plan for $14.99 a month where six members can access unlimited ad-free music from Spotify. Similar to the Google Play Family Plan, Spotify users also keep their own accounts and are given recommendations for music based on what they listen to, not what other users on the account listen to. However, users can view other users playlists and follow them giving a more social feel to the experience.

Video Game Industry


Digital Restrictions Management (DRM)[17]

  • Controls how owners of game copies can use licensed or copyrighted software.
  • Protects game developers from piracy and torrent.

Free Dgital Restrictions Management (free DRM) [18]

  • Game account owners who owns a copy of a game can freely download as many times as they want on their own personal computer.
  • Allows game owners to freely distribute their copy of their games to other personal computers, allowing others to play the game for free on a second computer.
  • Steam and GOG Galaxy are two of the most popular free DRM software platforms for games to be mass distributed and installed. Account sharing for Steam is a special case, requires two users to exchange account credentials to logon to each other’s account on their own computer with an access code to get access to each other’s game library. GOG Galaxy only requires one account information with a verification code to gain access to all the games on one account.

Game Accounts [19]

  • Sharing game accounts is fraudulent, due to not being able to tell who is the actual player behind the game account. Could either be the owner or someone else.
  • Compromises agreed terms of services when accepting the terms. Players agree to not share their password with other users, especially when real currency is a factor in the game. Such as paying a monthly subscription fee to play the game, credit card information is paired with the account.
  • If credit card information or real-life currency is used, this compromises the agreed terms of services and will result into an account ban, or until internal issues are resolved with both the owner of the account and the company.

Online Games Incidents [20]

  • Blizzard (

World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Overwatch, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, Starcraft 2 are all games released by Blizzard. There was an incident in World of Warcraft where a player went on his friends account to play on a max leveled character because that character was of a different class and ended up resulting him to be permanently banned and not his friend. The reason behind the ban was because he was accused of “boosting” the account’s rank when he was not, only play testing a maxed level character that he does not own. Nonetheless, the account of the player who was play testing got his account permanently banned and never got it back.

  • Riot Games (League of Legends)

Players are willing to pay superior players to play on their account in rank to be placed in a match making rating where they do not belong in. This has caused a large controversy that is still a problem but Riot Games have been stricter upon account sharing, due to fraudulent possibility of account owner and destroying the fairness of the game by “boosted players” playing with players who are exceptionally superior to. Boosted accounts are stripped of their rewards and a soft ban, meaning 1-2-week ban, no permanent bans yet.


  1. "Is It Okay to Share Log-ins for Amazon Prime, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, or Netflix?" Is It Okay to Share Log-ins for Streaming Services? - Consumer Reports. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>.
  2. "Is It Okay to Share Log-ins for Amazon Prime, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, or Netflix?" Is It Okay to Share Log-ins for Streaming Services? - Consumer Reports. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>.
  3. "United States: Criminal Or Civil Liability For Sharing Streaming Accounts?" Criminal Or Civil Liability For Sharing Streaming Accounts? - Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment - United States. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>.
  4. Long, Moe, Mihir Patkar, and Ben Stegner. "Should You Share Your Netflix Password With Others?" MakeUseOf. N.p., 09 Feb. 2016. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>.
  5. Manage Multiple Apple Devices In Your Family With iCloud and Apple ID(feb, 13, 2013) :
  6. Manage Multiple Apple Devices In Your Family With iCloud and Apple ID(feb, 13, 2013) :
  7. Why Netflix and HBO don't care if they lose $500M a year to password sharing (Jul,20) :
  8. "Sign In." Netflix. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>.
  9. "Share Your Amazon Prime Benefits." Help: Share Your Amazon Prime Benefits. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>. (Could not have a direct amazon link)
  10. "ICloud - Family Sharing." Apple. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>.
  11. Steam Family Sharing. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>.
  12. Hulu. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>.
  13. "5 Device Limit." Home - Xfinity Help and Support Forums. N.p., 06 Feb. 2015. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>.
  14. "Support." XFINITY® TV, Internet, Phone & Home Security Services by Comcast. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>.
  15. "YouTube Red." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>.
  16. "Introducing Spotify Family: Now the Whole Band Can play." Press. N.p., 24 Nov. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>.
  17. "What Is Digital Rights Management (DRM)? - Definition from" SearchCIO. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>.
  18. "Can I Enjoy My Purchases Both on My Laptop and Desktop Computer at Home?" GOG.COM SUPPORT CENTER. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>.
  19. "MMR / Elo Boosting." Riot Games Support. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>.
  20. "Is Account Sharing Allowed?" Blizzard Support. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <>.

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