Data Doctors: Why Apple’s NameDrop is safe to use

Q: Is Apple’s NameDrop option a security risk?

A: NameDrop is a new AirDrop feature that is part of the latest update from Apple in iOS 17, which was made available in mid-September.

It’s a convenient feature for those who want to accurately share either their phone number or their email address with new contacts. Anyone who’s ever exchanged contact information manually to later discover it was off by one digit or letter can see the value in this feature.

The Recent Firestorm

Misinformation is a common problem across all social media platforms, but it’s a bit disconcerting when the source of the bad information is law enforcement agencies.

Even though this feature has been out since September, police departments from various regions around the country started posting warnings this week claiming the NameDrop feature was a huge security risk.

It looks like one small police department created the original post and others simply reposted the information without ever vetting it, which led to the firestorm of reports.

Hopefully, this becomes a teaching moment for everyone as it pertains to reposting salacious information without verifying its validity.

False Claim #1 — Proximity

Most of the posts made it sound like someone could randomly pass by you or sit next to you on a bus or airplane and snag your contact info.

The reality is that the top of both phones must be within centimeters of each other to activate NameDrop and Bluetooth must be active on both phones that have the iOS 17 update.

NameDrop will not work if the phones are placed next to or on top of each other — only if the tops are very close to each other.

False Claim #2 — It’s automatic

Even if someone were to get your phone positioned properly, it simply starts the NameDrop process that requires a lot of user interaction on both sides.

First, if the phone is locked, it must be unlocked to respond to the sharing request, then the sending party has to decide whether they want to share and what they want to share.

You can also choose to “receive only,” which does not share your contact information with the other phone.

The only potential security issue is for those who don’t use any form of lock code or biometrics, which leads to much bigger security issues than NameDrop. Someone with malicious intent wouldn’t bother with NameDrop if they have full access to everything on the phone already.

False Claim #3 — It shares photos and addresses

One of the many warnings was that a child could unknowingly share their home address or photos from their device via NameDrop, which isn’t even remotely possible. The only image that may show up is if you’ve set your Contact Poster with an image.

The two items that can be shared are either a phone number or an email address — here’s a video from Apple showing how it works:

How to turn it off

This feature is especially useful for those in business, but if you want to turn it off, just search for AirDrop in Settings and disable “Bringing Devices Together.”

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or X.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up