DoNotPay, the digital lawyer that shot to prominence for its bot that helps drivers appeal parking tickets, has launched a new product aimed at consumers. With the DoNotPay Subscription Sharing Chrome extension, anyone can share access to their online accounts — like Spotify, Netflix, Disney+ — without divulging their password.
DoNotPay is the brainchild of Joshua Browder, a British-born entrepreneur who launched a website back in 2015 to help Londoners fight parking fines. Browder created an algorithm using historically successful appeals as a template to automatically generate fresh appeals for users. DoNotPay has since widened its geographic scope and expanded into all manner of legal services — in the past year alone, it has launched a tool that allows people to enjoy free trials of services without worrying about getting charged when the trial expires, a service for thwarting robocallers, and a subscription offering that sues data brokers that don’t delete your personal data.
The company’s new Chrome extension takes a slightly different direction, but it also promises to help people save money by sharing — and even trading — subscriptions with each other.
How it works
To use the service, you need to install the DoNotPay Chrome extension, after which you’ll be prompted to verify yourself by entering your mobile number and submitting an access code that is sent by SMS. Then, whenever you’re logged into a website that you would like to share, such as Netflix or Spotify, you can tap the little DoNotPay icon at the top of the browser and then hit Generate Link. You’ll be able to copy a link to share or enter a recipient’s email address and push the Send Invite button.
Browder said there are no hard limits in terms of how many people you can share a link with. However, it’s worth noting that many services automatically restrict the number of devices that can stream content simultaneously.
The recipient also needs to install the Chrome extension and verify themselves through DoNotPay, as this enables the sender to maintain control over who has access. The account owner is able to revoke access at any time.
During the beta phase, the DoNotPay extension also offered a way for users to earn money from their subscriptions by charging other people. However, for the full launch version that’s arriving today this functionality has been removed. “We found that it ruined the spirit of sharing links with friends,” Browder told VentureBeat. “Instead, you can ‘earn’ by trading links with others.”
Indeed, users are encouraged to trade their subscriptions, so if one person has a Netflix subscription they can swap access with a friend who has a Disney+ subscription, for example.
In terms of the underlying technology, DoNotPay effectively enables the secure transfer of a logged-in session by encrypting cookies for the website that is being shared.
“DoNotPay does not store the cookies or have access to them,” Browder said. “We use VGS [Very Good Security], which provides encryption and PCI II compliance and is trusted by many fintech companies. The cookies are also encrypted in transit and can only be seen by the people you are sharing them with.”
It’s worth noting that anyone you give account access to will be able to make some changes to the account, such as adding and removing titles on a watchlist. But they won’t be able to change passwords or two-factor authentication mechanisms, as both of these processes require knowledge of the password itself.
It’s also worth noting that while video- and music-streaming are obvious use cases for this service, it will work with any website. So if you have an Amazon Prime membership, for instance, you could share that with someone else.
While DoNotPay monetizes some of its other services via a $3 monthly fee, its Subscription Sharing tool is completely free — though it will be used to publicize other DoNotPay services.
The market DoNotPay is addressing with its latest service is well-documented. Millions of people already share online passwords with friends and family to save money, with as many as two-thirds of Netflix users alone reportedly sharing their login credentials with others. During an earnings call last year, Netflix CFO Spencer Neumann was asked how the company might address the issue of password sharing and said it may adopt tougher tactics in the future. “We continue to monitor it,” Neumann said. “We’re looking at the situation, and we’ll [look for] those consumer-friendly ways to push on the edges of that.”
Then there is the question of whether a service like DoNotPay encourages users to contravene their membership policies. By way of example, Netflix’s terms and conditions state:
… the Account Owner should maintain control over the Netflix ready devices that are used to access the service and not reveal the password or details of the Payment Method associated with the account to anyone.
Spotify has also started taking a tougher stance on credential sharing through its family plan, which — as its name suggests — is designed to enable multiple family members to access streaming through one account, but only when they live in the same household. Thus, Spotify has started requiring users on a family plan to periodically share their location data. Moreover, Spotify’s terms and conditions state that users are prohibited from:
providing your password to any other person or using any other person’s username and password.
DoNotPay could circumvent potential policy infringement claims on the basis that users aren’t technically sharing usernames or passwords with anyone else. And Browder is adamant that there are many perfectly legitimate use cases for this service.
“All big streaming providers explicitly include [the proviso] that multiple people can stream at the same time, such as Netflix, which allows more than three streamers on certain accounts,” Browder said. “There are many legitimate and allowed ways to share your account — for example, [with] a significant other, close friend, or roommate. This service just allows you to share it securely and easily with a link — without giving them your password.”
However, there is no getting around the fact that the service is ripe for abuse. Imagine this scenario: Someone pays $80 to watch the Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder rematch on pay-per-view and then shares their streaming link with five friends — that suddenly becomes a $13 fight if the cost is split evenly. It’s easy to see how the big technology and media companies might take a dim view of DoNotPay’s offering.
Other password-sharing services include Jam, which launched in private beta just last month. But DoNotPay’s service is notable in that the company is not building a business directly from its subscription-sharing tool, instead using it to promote its other services. The subscription-trading aspect is also novel, as it encourages users to swap accounts with each other.
Perhaps more importantly, DoNotPay is enabling users to share credentials with as few clicks as possible — without ever having to disclose a password to any person or third-party service.
“DoNotPay has built technology to transfer the logged-in session — rather than the password itself — with your friends and family,” Browder said. “There are plenty of password managers out there, but I would not feel comfortable giving my roommate/friend a password for anything. This service allows you to share subscriptions using just a link.”
Although subscription sharing is limited to the DoNotPay Chrome extension for now, Browder said there are plans to open things up to other platforms in the future.
“We have plans to expand to Firefox, and even our DoNotPay mobile app if this service becomes popular,” he said. “The Chrome extension is a test to see if it catches on, which we imagine it will.”