Netflix modifies its Android app to block VPN access

Netflix has upgraded its latest Android app with code to prevent users from bypassing geographical restrictions with VPNs.

The issue was highlighted on Reddit during the Christmas period and has prompted concerns Netflix is clamping down on users who may be accessing content not licensed in their locations. Currently, it appears to be affecting Android users only.

The latest version of the Android app (3.7.2+) now has the Google DNS hardcoded into the app. This means users will not be able to fool their Android device into thinking it is located in a different country.

Access to the US Netflix service is coveted by many users outside of the country because it features more content due to licensing agreements.

Update: Netflix Comment

"Virtually crossing borders to use Netflix is a violation of our terms of use because of content licensing restrictions," a spokesperson told IT Pro.

"We employ industry standard measures to prevent this kind of use. We have not recently made any changes."

VPN providers Unblock-US and UnoTelly have confirmed Netflix on Android will not work if their services are used. If they try and play a movie or TV show that is not available in their region, they will receive an error message saying the title is "unavailable" in their location.

Speculation has been rife that Netflix is under pressure from movie studios and TV networks to clamp down on VPN usage.

However, Netflix terms and conditions have always made it clear the company does not authorise the use of VPNs so any moves to verify user location should not come as a surprise.

"You may view a movie or TV show through the Netflix service primarily within the country in which you have established your account and only in geographic locations where we offer our service and have licensed such movie or TV show," it says in the Netflix terms and conditions.

"The content that may be available to watch will vary by geographic location. Netflix will use technologies to verify your geographic location."

Unblock-US has speculated that Netflix could be testing this setup in a bid to provide an improved service and the problem may soon disappear.

"Since Google is one of the fastest, most consistent DNS servers, it makes sense that they would test out hard coding Google's DNS into their Netflix app," according to a representative.

"We saw a similar issue a couple of years ago on the Playstation 3 and it became apparent at the time that Netflix and Sony were carrying out tests which is why not everyone was affected."

Khidr Suleman is the Technical Editor at IT Pro, a role he has fulfilled since March 2012. He is responsible for the reviews section on the site  - so get in touch if you have a product you think might be of interest to the business world. He also covers the hardware and operating systems beats. Prior to joining IT Pro, Khidr worked as a reporter at Incisive Media. He studied law at the University of Reading and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism and Online Writing at PMA Training.