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Should you turn off Apple’s new NameDrop feature? Experts weigh in

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Apple fixes security bug used to install spyware
Apple has issued a critical update for iPhone users who were in danger of having so-called zero-click malware installed on their devices. – Sep 9, 2023

The release of Apple’s new NameDrop feature has prompted some U.S. police departments to share concerns over children’s privacy.

NameDrop, currently available on Apple’s iOS 17.1, allows iPhone or Apple Watch users to quickly share contact information by holding two devices closely together.

On Sunday, the Watertown Police Department in Connecticut warned on Facebook that “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 Jefferson Hills Police Department in Pennsylvania also shared a warning on Facebook Sunday, telling parents to keep their children safe by changing NameDrop’s default setting on their phones.

Despite these concerns, technology and cybersecurity analyst Ritesh Kotak says the new NameDrop feature is safe. He says police likely misunderstood how it operates.

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“The misconception is the fact that I could just take my iPhone, go up to someone, touch devices and all of a sudden steal their information. It doesn’t work that way,” Kotak told Global News.

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Apple makes some big privacy changes

Can NameDrop allow others to steal your information?

An explanation on Apple’s website says the devices have to be within centimetres of each other for NameDrop to work. Then, users have to approve the transfer of information.

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“They can’t be a foot apart,” Kotak said. “I think at that point if somebody is going to get that close to me, that in itself should be red flags and alarm bells going off.”

The NameDrop transfer immediately cancels if the two devices are moved away from each other or one of the iPhones locks.

Kotak says he has tested the feature himself and it “seems safe” for both the everyday user and parents.

“From everything that I’ve tested, everything that I’ve seen, I just don’t see those concerns,” he said.

NameDrop is also available on watchOS 10.1 software, and is part of the software’s existing Airdrop feature.

If users do choose to disable the NameDrop feature, they can do so through their device settings by selecting ‘AirDrop’ and switching off ‘Start Sharing by Bringing Devices Together.’

“I understand that there are concerns, however, this feature is safe,” Kotak said.

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