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March 4, 2024

Police Warn iPhone Users to Turn Off Controversial New “NameDrop” Feature Due to Privacy Concerns

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Dec 1, 2023

Law enforcement agencies across the country are advising iPhone users to turn off a new "NameDrop" feature released in iOS 17 over privacy and safety concerns. The feature shares limited contact information when two iPhones come into close proximity, but police say it could potentially enable unwanted interactions.

What is NameDrop and How Does it Work?

NameDrop, included in the iOS 17 update released by Apple on November 16th, uses device-to-device communication via ultra-wideband (UWB) and Bluetooth to share basic contact info between nearby iPhones.

When two people with compatible iPhones come within 30 feet of each other, a notification appears showing each user the other’s name and photo (if available in their contact card). Tapping on the notification opens a People Nearby screen to initiate AirDrop file transfers.

The idea is to make AirDropping files and forming connections easier. However, police point out sensitive info is shared automatically without any action needed by the iPhone user.

Law Enforcement Agencies Issue Warnings to Public

Days after iOS 17’s release, sheriff’s offices, police departments, and state agencies began warning iOS users about potentially turning off NameDrop.

  • The Los Angeles Police Department tweeted "we urge iPhone users to disable this feature to prevent unintentional revealing of personal information."

  • The Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD in North Carolina said the feature "could pose safety concerns."

  • Hawaii Island Police cautioned that NameDrop should not be left on without understanding it.

Agencies explain that unwanted contacts, airdropped content, or location tracking become possible if the wrong person receives your information via NameDrop.

Apple Maintains Feature is Secure and Private

Apple responded to concerns by underscoring NameDrop was built with security and privacy in mind. Information is encrypted, not linked to Apple IDs, not uploaded to the cloud, and can only be seen by nearby users.

NameDrop aims to pave the way for seamless device interactions Apple sees as essential for augmented reality and other future innovations.

Analysts like Consumer Reports and Macworld agree NameDrop appears technically secure with no significant vulnerabilities based on its implementation. The question mark is whether convenience merits any risk of unwanted interactions.

How to Turn Off NameDrop on Your iPhone

Concerned iPhone users can easily toggle NameDrop off completely:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Tap on General and then AirDrop
  3. Under the "Finding Other Devices" section, turn off the Find My > People toggle

Disabling Find My network integration prevents NameDrop information from being shared while keeping emergency location services intact. AirDrop transfers will still work normally.

What Happens Next?

It remains to be seen whether heavy criticism from law enforcement prompts Apple to alter NameDrop’s functionality. One option may be introducing more fine-tuned user consent flows before showing contact information.

For now, Apple maintains NameDrop is working as intended. The company points to built-in safeguards like only allowing interactions between Apple device owners showing names from their own contact cards.

User privacy groups continue advocating for enhanced user controls and transparency around how data is handled. Parents are also being urged to decide whether to leave the feature on for their kids’ devices.

Overall adoption trends and any security incidents arising from NameDrop will determine if the current attention evolves into pressure for Apple to make substantive changes.

Table 1: Key Facts About NameDrop

Feature Description
Introduced November 16, 2022 with iOS 17 Release
Purpose Enable seamless AirDrop transfers and connections by sharing basic contact info between nearby iPhones
Main privacy concerns Unwanted contacts, interactions, location tracking
Information shared User’s name and photo from contact card (if added)
Default setting On/Enabled
Can users turn off? Yes
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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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