In the wake of Apple's latest software update, iOS 17, police departments across several states, including Massachusetts, Illinois and California, have issued an urgent advisory to parents.
This cautionary message stems from the introduction of a feature called "NameDrop," which, by default, is activated in the new update.
The NameDrop feature on iPhone (Apple)
How 'NameDrop' works
NameDrop enables the sharing of contact information when iPhones are brought close together, a functionality that, while innovative, poses significant risks if two iPhones are brought physically together head-to-head, particularly to children, according to law enforcement.
The police departments of Dighton and Andover in Massachusetts are leading the charge in raising awareness about this feature. They've taken to social media to educate the public, especially parents, about the potential dangers associated with NameDrop.
Two people using the NameDrop feature (Apple)
Dangers of 'NameDrop' feature for children
Their posts clarify that upon updating to iOS 17, users will find this feature automatically turned on, a default setting that could unwittingly expose personal information.
For parents, the primary concern is the security and privacy of their children. The ease with which contact details can be exchanged merely through proximity increases the risk of this sensitive information falling into the wrong hands.
Keep in mind, it’s highly unlikely your child’s information could be shared by simply coming near a stranger. The specific concern would be if a child is guided or tricked into putting their phone tip to the other tip of a stranger’s phone.
It's important to note that both iPhones must be unlocked and practically touching each other to use the Name Drop feature. Once a connection is established, your phone will vibrate and glow. Then you will get a prompt to share either your phone number or email address. You can also only receive contact information without sharing your own. No information is shared without you clicking one of those options.
The iPhone's NameDrop feature (Apple)
How to disable NameDrop feature on iPhone
Recognizing this threat, the police have provided clear instructions on how to disable NameDrop. If you are a parent and want to err on the safe side, here's how to turn off NameDrop.
- On iPhone, launch Settings app
- Tap General
- Select AirDrop
- Toggle OFF the option for Bringing Devices Together
Steps to disable NameDrop on iPhone (Kurt "CyberGuy" Knutsson)
This step is essential for safeguarding the privacy of children on their iPhones, iPads and other Apple devices.
How NameDrop puts children at risk for predators and cybercriminals
If a stranger were to obtain a child's contact information via NameDrop, the consequences could be severe. This unauthorized access to email addresses and phone numbers can be exploited by individuals with malicious intent, including predators and cybercriminals.
The introduction of NameDrop raises significant cybersecurity concerns. The ease of information sharing, while a testament to technological advancement, also brings forth new challenges in ensuring digital safety, especially for vulnerable groups like children.
What parents should do for all kids' phones, tablets and computers
In addition to this privacy setting, I always recommend using parental controls on your young children's devices and deploying strong antivirus protection to help intercept threats in today's increasingly growing dangers. You can see my Best Antivirus Protection options and reviews here.
We reached out to Apple for a comment and were offered guidance and clarity on how NameDrop works.
Apple says, "To cancel NameDrop at any time, a user can simply swipe from the bottom of the display, lock their device or move their device away if the connection has not been established."
Kurt's key takeaways
The advice from police departments and cybersecurity experts is the safest solution: Concerned parents should take proactive steps to adjust the settings on their children's devices to mitigate the risks associated with this new feature.
Although it takes physically putting the tops of two iPhones together for NameDrop to be initiated, children could be persuaded to use the feature by a stranger. Parents should educate their kids accordingly.
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Kurt "CyberGuy" Knutsson is an award-winning tech journalist who has a deep love of technology, gear and gadgets that make life better with his contributions for Fox News & FOX Business beginning mornings on "FOX & Friends." Got a tech question? Get Kurt’s CyberGuy Newsletter, share your voice, a story idea or comment at CyberGuy.com.