Menu
EN

Should you drop ‘NameDrop’? Latest iPhone feature is raising privacy alarm bells

Police departments across the US are sounding the alarm about a new feature rolled out to iPhone and Apple Watch users with the latest operating system update. The feature, called ‘NameDrop,’ simplifies sharing contact information between nearby Apple devices, namely watches and phones. The ‘nearby’ qualifier is the key, as such sharing is only possible when the two Apple-born devices are within a few centimeters of each other.

NameDrop is enabled by default and available to all users who have updated to iOS 17.1 or watchOS 10.0. The very fact that the feature is automatically turned on has not gone down well with the US law enforcement, who have urged users to disable it ASAP, citing privacy concerns. So what exactly did rub them wrong? And is the feature really that bad for privacy? Let’s set the record straight.

False alarm or a real threat to privacy?

Over the last several days, a number of US police departments, including in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, have been crying foul over the ‘NameDrop’ feature. Thus, the Middletown Division of Police in Ohio has posted a message on their FB page, calling on all iPhone users to turn ‘Name Drop’ off. The message was accompanied by a special plea to parents to make sure the feature is disabled on their children’s phones “to keep them safe as well.”

Police message

The warnings issued by the police and carried by the local media sounded ominous, but they did not go into much detail about what makes Apple’s new feature so dangerous in terms of privacy. If anything, one could assume that “holding phones together” was enough to transfer data and that no other action on the user’s behalf was required. This indeed would be scary: imagine, a cybercriminal approaches you, stealthily moves their phone closer to yours — and voilà, all your photos and all your contact information are in their possession.

However, this is simply not the case. The reality is that the feature requires both the user and the recipient of the contact information to agree to the transfer before it happens. That means that the user has to confirm the transfer on their phone, and the recipient has to accept the transfer on their device. Moreover, the phones should be positioned in a certain way relative to each other. Naturally, this makes accidental or malicious data exchange much less likely. So let’s go into more details as to how ‘NameDrop’ works exactly.

How NameDrop actually works

NameDrop allows you to share your contact information with a fellow iPhone or Apple Watch user. This information will include your contact photo and either your email address or your phone number, or both — depending on what you choose to share. The transfer only happens if your device and that of your counterpart are positioned closely to each other.

The correct positioning of phones against each other
Source: Screenshot from Apple’s tutorial on NameDrop

Once you’ve done that, an option to share your contact information will pop up on your screen, and you’ll be asked to choose what exactly you want to do. At this point, you may opt to only receive or only share information, or both.

You can choose to only receive information or only share it

Then you need to decide which information you want to share, such as your email address, your phone number, or both, and tap Share to start the transfer. In case you change your mind at the last minute, you can also tap Cancel to stop the transfer while it’s still in progress. You can also cancel the transfer by simply moving your device further away from that of the other person. That is because the feature is powered by Near-field Communication (NFC) connectivity technology, which is only suitable for short-range wireless transfers. The same NFC is behind the vast majority of contactless payment methods that allow you to pay with your phone at stores.

You can cancel the transfer while it is still in progress

In the end, the most your fellow Apple user (and it has to be an Apple user, because the feature is not compatible with Android) will get from you through ‘NameDrop’ is your contact photo, your email address, and your phone number. And not your entire phone library or the entire contents of your iCloud, for example.

You can choose what information to share

Are there any risks still?

Like any new technology, ‘NameDrop’ is not completely risk-free. The main source of risk, as usual, is human nature. A 2019 study revealed that about 16% of smartphone users still would not lock their phones with a code or biometric. However, for iPhones users, there’s hardly an excuse to leave their phones unlocked. By default, iPhones automatically lock themselves after 30 seconds of inactivity, unless you change the setting to a shorter or a longer time interval, or turn it off completely. Alternatively, you can lock your iPhone screen manually with the side button or a swipe gesture. Unlocking your phone should not be a problem either, since users have three different ways to do so: Touch ID, Face ID or a passcode.

In a nutshell, unless the other person has physical access to your unlocked iPhone, there’s very little chance that your contact information will be leaked through ‘NameDrop’. And if your unlocked iPhone does fall into the hands of a bad actor, then… well, the perceived dangers of ‘NameDrop’ will be the least of your worries.

So, while there’re inherent risks to every new technology, there’s probably no need to panic and dash to disable ‘NameDrop’ on your iPhone. But it may be a good idea to tell your children not to share contacts and/or phones with strangers.

Liked this post?

AdGuard for Windows

AdGuard for Windows is more than an ad blocker. It is a multipurpose tool that blocks ads, controls access to dangerous sites, speeds up page loading, and protects children from inappropriate content.
User Reviews: 13069
4.7 out of 5
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement
Read more

AdGuard for Mac

AdGuard for Mac is a unique ad blocker designed with macOS in mind. In addition to protecting you from annoying ads in browsers and apps, it shields you from tracking, phishing, and fraud.
User Reviews: 13069
4.7 out of 5
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement
Read more

AdGuard for Android

AdGuard for Android is a perfect solution for Android devices. Unlike most other ad blockers, AdGuard doesn't require root access and provides a wide range of app management options.
User Reviews: 13069
4.7 out of 5
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement

AdGuard for iOS

The most advanced ad blocker for Safari: it makes you forget about pop-up ads, speeds up page loading, and protects your personal data. A manual element-blocking tool and highly customizable settings help you tailor the filtering to your exact needs.
User Reviews: 13069
4.7 out of 5
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement

AdGuard Browser Extension

AdGuard is the fastest and most lightweight ad blocking extension that effectively blocks all types of ads on all web pages! Choose AdGuard for the browser you use and get ad-free, fast and safe browsing.
User Reviews: 13069
4.7 out of 5

AdGuard for Safari

Ad blocking extensions for Safari are having hard time since Apple started to force everyone to use the new SDK. AdGuard extension is supposed to bring back the high quality ad blocking back to Safari.
User Reviews: 13069
4.7 out of 5
App Store
Download
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement

AdGuard Home

AdGuard Home is a network-wide software for blocking ads & tracking. After you set it up, it’ll cover ALL your home devices, and you don’t need any client-side software for that. With the rise of Internet-Of-Things and connected devices, it becomes more and more important to be able to control your whole network.
User Reviews: 13069
4.7 out of 5

AdGuard Content Blocker

AdGuard Content Blocker will eliminate all kinds of ads in mobile browsers that support content blocker technology — namely, Samsung Internet and Yandex.Browser. While being more limited than AdGuard for Android, it is free, easy to install and still provides high ad blocking quality.
User Reviews: 13069
4.7 out of 5
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement
Read more

AdGuard Assistant

A companion browser extension for AdGuard desktop apps. It offers an in-browser access to such features as custom element blocking, allowlisting a website or sending a report.
User Reviews: 13069
4.7 out of 5
Assistant for Chrome Is it your current browser?
Install
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement
Assistant for Firefox Is it your current browser?
Install
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement
Assistant for Edge Is it your current browser?
Install
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement
Assistant for Opera Is it your current browser?
Install
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement
Assistant for Yandex Is it your current browser?
Install
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement
Assistant for Safari Is it your current browser?
If you can't find your browser, try the old legacy Assistant version, which you can find in AdGuard extension settings.

AdGuard Temp Mail β

A free temporary email address generator that keeps you anonymous and protects your privacy. No spam in your main inbox!
User Reviews: 13069
4.7 out of 5

AdGuard for Android TV

AdGuard for Android TV is the only app that blocks ads, guards your privacy, and acts as a firewall for your Smart TV. Get warnings about web threats, use secure DNS, and benefit from encrypted traffic. Relax and dive into your favorite shows with top-notch security and zero ads!
User Reviews: 13069
4.7 out of 5
Downloading AdGuard To install AdGuard, click the file indicated by the arrow Select "Open" and click "OK", then wait for the file to be downloaded. In the opened window, drag the AdGuard icon to the "Applications" folder. Thank you for choosing AdGuard! Select "Open" and click "OK", then wait for the file to be downloaded. In the opened window, click "Install". Thank you for choosing AdGuard!
Install AdGuard on your mobile device