iPhone NameDrop update worries law enforcement: Here's what you need to know

The iPhone got a big upgrade this fall. But there is one new feature tucked into this one that has some folks,  particularly law enforcement, worried. 

The iPhone iOS 17 upgrade includes live voicemail where you read a transcript of a live voicemail. If you think it's urgent, you can pick it up. If not, you can wait to respond. The feature is managed in the settings section. Here's the pathway: Settings > Phone > Live Voicemail.

You can also send a FaceTime voicemail. And it's just what it sounds like - leaving a message via FaceTime. For this, you go to your FaceTime app, then into New FaceTime, and go from there. 

But it's the new NameDrop feature that's causing heartburn for police. 

Apple's website says it allows iPhones and Apple Watch users to seamlessly exchange contact information like names, numbers, addresses, and things like that by putting the devices very close to each other. When you update the software, this feature and the others are automatically turned on. The concern is that young people have this feature open and bad actors can snatch their home addresses and phone numbers.

iPhone 15 Pro camera is seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on November 22, 2023. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Titania Jordan is with Bark Technologies, an internet safety app for parents and kids, and helps us wade through how NameDrop works. 

"Worst-case scenario is that somebody does not have a password on their iPhone. It's just unlocked. So anybody can open it up and put it right next to another iPhone. The iPhones must be very close to each other and then share contact information wirelessly without that user's knowledge. But the request to share information is just that. It's a request. It has to be opted in on both ends."

It's news you need to know, but there's no need to panic. If you have a passcode on your phone, no one is sneaking in. And even if you have the feature activated, you have to OK the exchange of information. But for kids, Ms. Jordan says just turn off the feature. Don't put them in the position of having to make a choice about sharing info.  

Here's how to access it: Settings > General > Airdrop.  There you toggle off "Bringing Devices Together."  But, tell children why you're doing this, and if you have teens, tell them how they can use it safely.

"Let them know if, hey, if you're going to go to a birthday party or a football game, and you're going to be meeting a bunch of new kids, and you'd like to be able to easily get information, let's talk about it," Jordan said. "Maybe we can toggle that off. Or, let you toggle it on and let you have that feature. But in general, we are going to have this off.

Bark Technologies offers an Android phone designed for children. It limits their options. It's a great starter phone.