What parents should know about iPhone's 'NameDrop' feature

Police in some states issued warnings about misuse of the new feature.

November 28, 2023, 7:16 AM

In some recent social media posts about a new Apple iOS feature, several police departments have expressed concern about the new "NameDrop" feature potentially putting children at risk if it were to be misused.

But some tech experts say the technology is safe when used as intended and that the warnings in some cases are exaggerated.

According to Apple, the NameDrop option lets iPhone and Apple Watch users who are next to each other share contact information such as a name, photo, phone number or email address quickly and easily with just a few taps.

The feature, announced in June, is currently available on Apple's iOS 17.1 and watchOS 10.1 software, and is part of the software's existing AirDrop feature.

Concerns first arose after the Watertown Police Department in Connecticut shared a Facebook post Sunday that claimed Apple's NameDrop feature is "enabled by default" after a user updates their iPhone to the latest operating system. The post inaccurately claimed that with the feature enabled, "anyone" could place their phone near another person's phone and "automatically receive their contact information" and picture "with a tap of your unlocked screen."

In Pennsylvania, the Jefferson Hills Police Department on Sunday also shared a Facebook post with a similar note, specifically addressing parents, encouraging them to "change these settings after the update on your children's phones."

PHOTO: An Apple iPhone 15 is displayed at a Best Buy Store, Nov. 2, 2023, in San Rafael, California.
An Apple iPhone 15 is displayed at a Best Buy Store, Nov. 2, 2023, in San Rafael, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Despite those warnings, Liz Repking, the owner and founder of Cyber Safety Consulting, told "Good Morning America" that parents do not have to be overly alarmed about kids' safety surrounding the use of NameDrop.

"I wouldn't say they should be hyper concerned about NameDrop more so than any other feature that their kids are exposed to when they use the devices," Repking said. "The way the police postings read was that if you put two phones close together, you can have your personal information taken from your device, but there's actually a screen that pops up that asks for approval to transfer that information."

Repking suggested the NameDrop feature might serve as a reminder for parents to talk to their children about digital safety and safeguarding private information, especially from a young age.

"Show them where it's at, tell them that you want to turn it off [if you decide that], but then what it does is it gives a parent another platform to talk about why it's important to protect that information," Repking said. "If you say like, 'Hey, here's a feature in the app or the device. Let's talk about it.' You're not coming at kids like, 'Hey, are you sharing your personal information?' [which can make] kids really defensive."

Watertown Deputy Police Chief Renee Dominguez, meanwhile, told "GMA" this week that her department's decision to share the post, which also included instructions on how to disable the iPhone feature and change settings, was more about taking a proactive approach to try to educate and raise awareness of a newer phone feature, as they have done previously when sharing information about phone scams or incidents that arise from the use of new technology.

"We just want people to be aware and choose to set up your child's phone, your own phone, the way that you feel that suits your needs and as much privacy as you want to keep on your phone and restriction of access," Dominguez said. "We will go to some of these workshops that we do for parents, and parents really have no idea that their kids have all these abilities on their phone."

However, Dominguez added, "There has been no negative activity with [NameDrop] that [has] been reported to the police department, or even in our surrounding area that we've been made aware of."

PHOTO: Name drop feature is demonstrated on an iPhone 15.
Name drop feature is demonstrated on an iPhone 15.

Apple declined to comment to "GMA" about the NameDrop feature.

The company explains on its website, however, that if users wish, they can select who they want to share any contact information with and when -- and it can only be done when devices are within centimeters of each other, when devices are unlocked, and when a user follows the prompts to complete a NameDrop process.

The NameDrop function can be disabled by going to an iPhone's Settings app, selecting the General tab, then the AirDrop tab, and then toggling the "Bringing Devices Together" option off.

If a NameDrop process is started, it will also automatically cancel if one of the iPhones or Apple Watches is moved away from the second device, or if an iPhone is locked before the NameDrop process is completed.