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Claim overstates privacy risks of Apple's new NameDrop feature | Fact check

The claim: iPhones will automatically share contact info with strangers

A Nov. 26 Instagram post (direct link, archive link) warns of a purported iPhone security risk.

"If you have an iPhone and have done the recent iOS 17 update. They have set a new feature called NameDrop to default to ON," the post reads in part. "This allows the sharing of contact info AND PICS just by bringing your phones close together. Even with strangers."

The post was liked more than 13,000 times in five days. Similar claims, many by law enforcement agencies, were shared widely on Facebook.

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Our rating: False

The new NameDrop feature doesn't work simply by bringing phones together. Phones must be close enough to be nearly touching, and then each user must confirm what info they want to share before any information is exchanged.

Contact sharing feature requires manual confirmation

Updates to the operating system for iPhones and Apple Watches in November enabled NameDrop automatically, although Apple unveiled the feature in September. The feature allows iPhone users to share contact information and pictures, but Apple included several safeguards to keep information from being passed unintentionally.

NameDrop requires iPhones or Apple Watches to be within a few centimeters of each other and unlocked, according to Apple’s customer support page. Both users then get a popup screen where they choose if they want to share their contact info or accept contact info from the other user.

NameDrop transfers contact information stored in the user's contact card and what Apple calls a "Contact Poster," which can be a picture, emoji or text. As of Nov. 27 NameDrop only works with iPhones running versions of iOS 17.1 and certain Apple Watch models using watchOS 10.1.

Apple outlined the safeguards involved during the unveiling of iOS 17 in September.

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Many of the posts share instructions for deactivating NameDrop. To do so, users can:

  • Go to Settings

  • Tap General

  • Tap AirDrop

  • Toggle Bring Devices Together off

Richard Ficco Sr., the police chief of Richland Township, Pennsylvania, said in a Facebook message that his department shared its warning – a less alarmist version – out of an abundance of caution.

"I have heard that this is not easy to do without your involvement, but why give the resourceful criminal a chance?" he wrote. "It may be an overreaction, but a lot of people don't even know what comes with their updates and didn't even know this was a feature."

USA TODAY reached out to other social media users who shared the claim for comment but did not immediately receive responses.

Lead Stories also debunked the claim.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NameDrop doesn't automatically share info with strangers | Fact check