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The open letter every Netflix user needs to read

We've written to Netflix's Reed Hastings to ask him to stop blocking privacy-conscious VPN users

Last month, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said on an earnings call that VPN users were “a very small but quite vocal minority,” that are “really inconsequential to us.”

We want Netflix to know that we are not insignificant – and privacy is not a right that can just be dismissed because it’s inconvenient.

We’ve expressed your concerns about Netflix’s recent crackdown on VPN users in a letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings (in full below), to let the company know that this vocal minority is not going anywhere. Digital privacy is critical in a post-Snowden world, and Netflix has the chance to do the right thing here.

This campaign has been a unique one for us here at OpenMedia. Although the use of VPNs is a privacy concern, there are numerous issues related to our work on free expression and territorial licensing that have arisen alongside – and we’ve seen a wide range of perspectives from you, our community, along the way. It's clear how enormously frustrating many of you are finding it to be forced to choose between protecting your privacy, and watching your favourite shows. At the same time, we also recognize that Netflix has obligations to the rights holders whose content they distribute.

But one thing has remained consistent: Nothing that Netflix does to respect its contractual obligations to creators should undermine our privacy in the process.

We should not need to sacrifice our privacy to access Netflix, and ensure creators are respected and compensated for their work.

There are better ways to do this. We have a few ideas, and are sure that you do too.

So we’ve invited Netflix to meet with us to discuss alternative options. And, if they take us up on that, we'll be sure to bring your voices right into the room.

In the meantime, if you’ve yet to do so, take action and stand up for privacy at



Our open letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings:

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Dear Mr. Hastings,

I am writing on behalf of OpenMedia, a community-based organization that works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We work toward informed and participatory digital policy by engaging hundreds of thousands of people in protecting our online rights.

We love Netflix. We’re customers because we love your services and we love supporting creators. 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. Over the past few months, Netflix has begun blocking VPN users from accessing any content in the Netflix library, as a way to enforce national licensing restrictions. This 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.

On a recent earnings call, you said that VPN users were “a very small but quite vocal minority,” that are “really inconsequential to us.” Well, we’re not small, and we’re not insignificant – but you did get one thing right: we are vocal. And we think it’s important that our voices be heard. So far nearly 45,000 people have joined our campaign asking you to not block pro-privacy VPN technology.

VPNs are one of the best and most accessible tools that Internet users have to protect our privacy. Whether it's from malicious criminal activities, government surveillance and censorship, or simply connecting to a weakly-secured hotel wi-fi system, our personal and private digital information is constantly being put at risk and made vulnerable online.

In countries without net neutrality protections, video streaming is being throttled by Internet service providers. Under repressive governments, immense quantities of content are being blocked by governments trying to control what their citizens can and cannot access. And in ALL countries around the world, the very structure of the Internet exposes each of us to incredible threats to our private and personal data, which we must take care to protect.  

We need easy, accessible, and effective tools to protect our privacy online while still enjoying the Internet we love – and VPNs do just that.  

We shouldn’t have to choose between Netflix and privacy.

There is a wide range of reasons that Internet users rely on VPNs to secure their Internet traffic. According to Global News, the primary reason that 2 of 3 VPN users utilize a VPN service is not for accessing Netflix content. But thanks to your recent changes, VPN users can no longer access domestic Netflix content without exposing themselves online.

Yes, we think that content should be globally licensed, and that geoblocking content is a tactic that undermines the very ethos of the internet – a globally connected world, where everyone has access to the same information and resources, regardless of the country you live in.

And your own business model supports this! On your own site, you mention that you want to make your content globally available. Much of your own original content is available in all of the countries Netflix is operating within. But the second that we as users decide to add our privacy into the mix, it all falls apart and our access is completely denied.

We are not unreasonable. We do understand that you have contractual obligations to the rights-holders 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.

We would like to invite you to meet with OpenMedia to discuss this issue in person. We have a few ideas, and we’re sure that you do too. They might not be as easy, but they will definitely help position Netflix as a privacy-conscious leader in this field, and show your support for a large and critical portion of your users.

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.


Laura Tribe

Digital Rights Specialist, OpenMedia

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