Multiple U.S. police departments issued alerts about a new iPhone feature that allows sharing contact info and images wirelessly between two closely held devices, warning that the feature could pose a risk to children and other vulnerable individuals.
“If you have an iPhone and have done the recent iOS 17 update, they’ve installed a feature called NameDrop. This feature allows you to easily share contact information and photos to another iPhone by just holding the phones close together,” the Middletown Division of Police, Ohio, said in a Nov. 26 Facebook post.
“PARENTS: Don’t forget to change these settings on your child’s phone to help keep them safe as well!”
“With this feature enabled, anyone can place their phone next to yours (or your child’s phone) and automatically receive their contact information to include their picture, phone number, email address, and more, with a tap of your unlocked screen,” the Watertown CT Police Department, Connecticut, said in another post.
The NameDrop option is turned on by default. In order to cancel the feature in iOS 17:
- Open the “Settings” option
- Tap the “General” option
- Tap the “AirDrop” tab, which controls the file-sharing features of the phone
- Once AirDrop is selected, turn off the “Bringing Devices Together” option to disable NameDrop.
Warnings about NameDrop were issued by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan, and the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, South Carolina.
In its warning, the Greenville office pointed out that “the only way your contact information will be shared is if you and the other person hold your phones very close to each other, unlock them both, and then accept the swap.” “There is no way for anyone to get your information without it first popping up on your screen and you or them physically tapping the ‘accept’ prompt.”
The risk posed by the feature is something that can “easily be mistaken or looked past by elderly, children, or other vulnerable individuals,” it said.
Speaking to CBS 12, Amir Sachs, a cybersecurity expert with Blue Light IT, pointed out that police warnings are largely owing to concerns about the safety of children.
“I guess if a predator wanted to come in and managed to put the phone near a kid’s phone the fear is that the kid’s details will be transferred to the predator’s phone,” he said. “But I don’t think the fear is based on reality.”
Mr. Sachs pointed out that the two phones need to be within around an inch of each other for the NameDrop feature to work.
When two iPhones are placed together, NameDrop offers users two options: “Receive Only” or “Share.”
“Receive Only” means that a user will only receive information transmitted by the other individual. No information about the user will be sent to the other person. Choosing “Share” allows the user to send their information to another individual.