Auck Ward

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How Would Hulu or Netflix Shut Down Expats Circumventing Geoblocks?

Hulu geoblock page. Screenshot by Tina.

How do expats access movies and TV shows if they are geoblocked because they are not located in the States? Via VPNs and proxies, which violate the sites’ terms of service. So how would Netflix, Hulu or other streaming sites target expats navigating around geoblocks?

In a recent New York Times article, a Netflix spokesperson conceded that it couldn’t really do a lot to prevent people from accessing content via a VPN. So I asked: How could streaming media services reinforce their terms of service then?

An Auck Ward reader recently emailed me with an explanation. He or she asked me to keep him or her anonymous, but you can trust on good authority this person knows IT well. I lightly edited for punctuation:

Regarding the detection of individuals circumventing geoblocks: I think there are a few things to this, one being the drive of companies like Netflix to actually expend the effort to crack down on it. Doing so would also be costly on their part. I think they’re more likely to want to take some action when Netflix is live in a particular country.

The work to detect it would involve using a big data analysis tool like Splunk or Arcsight (likely a SIEM solution – Security Information and Event Management). The company with the geoblock would have to research all of the players offering VPN/Proxy/DNS Proxy services to figure out what IP networks they were using. They could then correlate that data against the data in their SIEM tool, which would include customer connection data. All of the connection data is collected anyway for threat analysis. In doing this they could identify pockets of customers and shut them down.

One of the challenges they would face is that the operators of the VPN/Proxy/DNS Proxy services would swap out their IPs as soon as they notice services were being shut down. It would be very difficult for a company to completely eradicate all users of location hiding services, especially smaller groups of individuals who perhaps have servers of their own that they’re routing traffic through.

Well, there you have it. Nailing down expats trying to get their streaming fix is like playing Whac-A-Mole.

Comments? Those go here.

Related post:
How Do Expats Keep Up with Overseas Content? VPNs, Proxies, Hola!


  1. I read an article recently, and basically Netflix said that they don’t care if people are using VPNs etc to access their content – and it makes sense, because they still get the money!

  2. “Nailing down expats trying to get their streaming fix is like playing Whac-A-Mole” – this would actually the case, VPN providers will obviously find ways to get Netflix’s restrictions and Netflix will do the same to find the holes which are open.

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