Apple Responds to Police Warnings About New iPhone Feature

The Cupertino-based company responded to multiple law enforcement agencies’ warnings.
Apple Responds to Police Warnings About New iPhone Feature
A woman uses her iPhone in a file photo. (Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

Tech giant Apple released a statement in response to law enforcement officials’ assertions that the iPhone’s new “NameDrop” feature is a security risk.

Police and sheriff’s departments in multiple states this week issued warnings about an update on the iPhone and other Apple devices, known as NameDrop, that allows users to share contact details by holding two devices together.

The Middletown Division of Police in Ohio, the Mount Pleasant Department in Wisconsin, and Henry County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee, among others, posted warnings on social media regarding the feature.

“If you have an iPhone and have done the recent iOS 17 update. They have set a new feature call NameDrop to default to ON,” the Mount Pleasant Department warning stated. “ This allows the sharing of contact info just by bringing your phones close together. To shut this off go to Settings, General, AirDrop, Bringing Devices Together. Change to OFF.”

According to the department’s bulletin: “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 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.”

Apple Responds

An Apple spokesperson told USA Today and other outlets this week that the NameDrop feature is designed to share details “with only intended recipients” and that users can choose the specific information they want to share and details they do not want to share via the program.
The spokesperson further stated that no contact information is automatically shared when two devices are close. The user has to first take action.

“If NameDrop appears on a device and the user does not want to share or exchange contact information, they can simply swipe from the bottom of the display, lock their device or move their device away if the connection has not been established,” Apple said.

The company spokesperson added that “before a user can continue with NameDrop and choose the contact information they want to share, they will need to ensure their device is unlocked. NameDrop does not work with devices that are locked.”
It’s not clear if there have been any confirmed cases of malign actors stealing users’ personal details via the iPhone feature, which was released as part of the iOS 17 update in September.

Warnings Overblown?

Sophos digital security expert Chester Wisniewski told the Washington Post earlier this week that recent warnings are merely “hysteria” and “nonsense.”
Meanwhile, cybersecurity analyst Davey Winder told Forbes magazine that the risk of a stranger obtaining contact information is a “very tenuous truth” because it still requires physical access via a phone that is unlocked. If a stranger can access the unlocked phone, “then it’s game over as far as privacy is concerned,” he said.
Apple news website MacRumors also described the NameDrop feature as “more irritating than dangerous, simply because it’s likely to activate when your phone is next to someone else’s and unlocked, in a situation like a dinner or meeting,” claiming the recent warnings are “misinformation.”

But other cybersecurity researchers said that the feature is, in fact, problematic because it’s easier to share personal details with potentially bad actors.

“Features like Apple’s NameDrop that reveal personal information should be treated cautiously but not necessarily avoided,” Kurt Sanger, cybersecurity expert at Batten Safe who used to work for the federal government, told CBS News. “If NameDrop works as advertised, a user will have to make deliberate, intentional selections to share information from device to device.”

Contact details that can be shared via the feature “can include your name, phone number, email address, home address, work address, birthday, a picture of your face, and even more,” and the “more information cyber criminals gain access to, the more harm they can cause you and your finances,” Mike Scheumack, chief innovation officer of identity theft protection company IdentityIQ, told CBS.

As for whether NameDrop has been used to steal data, Cliff Steinhauer, Director of Information Security and Engagement at The National Cybersecurity Alliance told CBS that “we haven’t seen any bad actors use it to steal that information as of now.” He noted that users can decline to share their information if they are prompted.

How to Stop It

People who want to opt out of NameDrop can do so by accessing the iPhone Settings app, going to the General sub-menu, tapping AirDrop, and switching off the “Start sharing by bringing devices together” option.
NameDrop is one of the main features included in the aforementioned iOS 17 update. In October, Apple expanded it to allow users to share information via an Apple Watch to their iPhone.
It works similar to iPhone’s AirDrop, which also requires a user to get close to the iPhone or Apple Watch they wish to share information with. Steps on how to use the feature can be found on Apple’s website.

The Epoch Times contacted Apple for comment this week.

Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X:
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