Netflix confirms it will start blocking proxies and unblockers

Netflix recently expanded its streaming services to nearly every country in the world. This good news for potential users in those countries has dampened the spirits of those who already used Netflix by employing VPNs and proxies to bypass the company’s geo-location restrictions.

As expected, Netflix’s offering in most of these countries is very poor when compared to the content available to US users, and it was to be expected that Netflix would try to force those users to switch to their local versions of the service.

Last week, David Fullagar, VP of Content Delivery Architecture at Netflix, confirmed as much:

“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. We are making progress in licensing content across the world and, as of last week, now offer the Netflix service in 190 countries, but we have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere,” he noted.

“Some members use proxies or ‘unblockers’ to access titles available outside their territory. To address this, we employ the same or similar measures other firms do. This technology continues to evolve and we are evolving with it. That means in coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are.”

He didn’t say what particular measures they will be taking to enforce this restriction.

Neil Hunt, chief product officer of Netflix, told The Globe and Mail that “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.”

Netflix started blocked access due to VPN or proxy usage even before this latest development. Users of VPN provider TorGuard have started getting access problems in mid-December. Users of other “unblockers” have also been having problems, and the services are trying to find solutions to them.

TorrentFreak reported earlier this month that Netflix is apparently testing a variety of blocking methods such as using the computers’ browser and mobile devices’ GPS to discover the user’s time zone.

More aggressive blocking measures are sure to follow. Whether they will also try to sanction those who try to bypass the restrictions remains to be seen.