Law enforcement agencies across the United States are warning iPhone users about potential security risks associated with Apple’s recently introduced feature, NameDrop, included in the latest operating system update, iOS 17.1 and watch OS 10.1.
NameDrop enables users to quickly share contact information with nearby iPhones or Apple watches.
The Longwood Police Department in Florida expressed concerns, noting that the NameDrop feature is defaulted to “On,” raising the possibility of users, including children, unknowingly sharing contact information with others.
Similar warnings have been issued by law enforcement agencies in Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin and Ohio.
To use NameDrop, one must first hold the display of an iPhone just centimeters from the top of another person’s iPhone or Apple Watch, and then open their contacts app and tap “share.”
Apple says users “continue holding your devices near each other until NameDrop appears on both screens.”
In order to complete the exchange, the user must “choose to share your contact card and receive the other person’s, or to only receive the other person’s.”
The Village of Mount Pleasant Police Department called for greater awareness of the feature, particularly among vulnerable individuals, urging the public to adjust their settings to safeguard contact information.
“This is intended for the public to be aware of as this is something that can easily be mistaken or looked past by elderly, children or other vulnerable individuals,” the Village of Mount Pleasant Police Department said in a Facebook post. “The intentions of the information provided is to inform the public of this feature and adjust their settings as needed to keep their own or their loved ones’ contact information safe.”
Several other police departments, including Michigan’s Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, have echoed these concerns.
“We know that it allows you to share it and you can refuse, but many people do not check their settings and realize how their phone works. This particular setting defaults to ‘on’ rather than have you opt in. And again, it is the area where you also decide who can access AirDrop,” the department wrote.
To address these worries, police departments recommend turning off the NameDrop feature by navigating to “Settings,” “General,” “AirDrop,” “Bringing Devices Together” and switching it to “Off.”
Despite law enforcement concerns, Apple has not provided official comments on the matter.
However, experts argue that the fears surrounding NameDrop may be unfounded.
NameDrop requires physical proximity, with devices almost touching, and both users must agree to share information.
According to Mark Bartholomew, a cyber law specialist at the University at Buffalo, the panic over nonconsensual data sharing is unnecessary, as NameDrop has built-in measures to prevent information theft.
However, he believes that maintaining caution is always the right approach when privacy is at stake.
“Too often we see new technologies and exchange our information without thinking about the trade off,” he said. “We should be cautious before we embrace it.”