45,000 People Ask Netflix to Stop VPN Crackdown

A letter signed by nearly 45,000 people calls upon Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to reverse the company's broad VPN ban. To enforce geographical restrictions Netflix started blocking VPN users more aggressively this year, but according to OpenMedia there are better alternatives that respect the privacy of users.

netflix-logo​Earlier this year Netflix announced that it would increase its efforts to block customers who circumvent geo-blockades.

As a result it has become harder to use VPN services and proxies to access Netflix content from other countries, something various movie studios have repeatedly called for.

With the application of commercial blacklist data, Netflix blocks IP-addresses that are linked to such services, something which also affects well-intentioned customers who merely use a VPN to protect their privacy.

This broad blocking policy has sparked wide protests and 44,446 Internet users have signed a petition launched by digital rights group OpenMedia, which asks Netflix to stop the VPN crackdown.

Today, OpenMedia sent a letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, delivering this message. The letter starts off by saying that the petition signers all love Netflix, but that they don’t like how the company handles their privacy.

“Watching quality content, and knowing that creators are being compensated in the process is great. But we also love our privacy. And lately, as your subscribers, you just haven’t been treating us well,” the letter reads.

“[Blocking VPN connections] is a huge problem for our privacy ­conscious supporters, who use VPNs as an essential, user­ friendly tool to protect their privacy in a post ­Snowden world.”

The letter acknowledges that Netflix has to cooperate with rightsholders, but according to OpenMedia there are better ways to make sure that geographic restrictions are enforced.

“We are not unreasonable. We do understand that you have contractual obligations to the rights­holders whose content you distribute. But we believe that there are better ways for you to respect creators, and enforce your geographic restrictions and contractual obligations than by outright blocking your privacy conscious customers from using your service.”

The group invites Netflix’s CEO for a meeting to discuss these alternatives. Talking to TorrentFreak, OpenMedia spokesperson David Christopher previously said that Netflix could link content libraries to credit card addresses, for example.

“We hope that you will consider the needs and privacy of the millions of Internet users around the world who value your service, by demonstrating that you are open to new and innovative solutions – the very root of what Netflix was founded on,” the letter adds.

Thus far Netflix hasn’t shown any willingness to address the concerns. During an investor call last month Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said that the recent crackdown on VPN users hasn’t hurt the company’s results, and that the complaints came from a “small but vocal minority.”

OpenMedia’s letter

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