Big Island police caution public about iPhone security concerns

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The Hawaii Police Department is warning iPhone and Apple Watch users about privacy concerns regarding a feature on Apple’s latest operating system software update.

The feature, called NameDrop, allows users with iOS 17.1 and watchOS 10.1 “to quickly share contact information with a nearby iPhone or Apple Watch,” according to the tech corporation.

The NameDrop feature is defaulted to ON when the update is downloaded, which is a cause of concern for law enforcers.

“If it’s in the wrong hands, say a child predator, they could possibly just walk up and tap a kid’s phone in and attempt to get that information,” said Sgt. Jason Grouns of the HPD’s Administrative Services Bureau. “We must take the necessary steps to prevent our children’s contact information from falling into the wrong hands.”

Users can simply bring two devices close enough together and a NameDrop prompt will appear on both screens, allowing users to choose if they want to share and receive contact cards. This is a major red flag from a cybersecurity standpoint, police said.

Police are cautioning parents to change these settings on their children’s phones, iPads and other Apple devices, and to remind their children to not lend their phone to a stranger.

To turn off the NameDrop feature, police recommend users go to “Settings,” “General,” “AirDrop,” “Bringing Devices Together,” and then switch to “OFF.”

“I went to the Apple website, and it looks like you are going to have to accept or give consent for somebody to take your contact information,” Grouns said. “It’s still just concerning, the ease of which one can share their contact information.”

Grouns said the new iPhones that came out in September already has the operating system with NameDrop defaulted to “ON” and “then (Apple) started slowly rolling this out to those on older operating systems.”

Another new feature of the operating system is easier photo sharing via AirDrop.

“Now, you can just put your phone right in front of somebody’s with the photo you want to share, and it will just shoot it right onto their screen,” Grouns said.

Grouns said the department hasn’t received any public complaints about NameDrop, but wanted to proactively inform the public that their contact information — and more importantly, their children’s contact information — can be at risk.

“Your personal contact information should stay secure on your phone. It’s not for other people,” Grouns said. “And we just want the public to know.”

If you feel that someone is trying to unlawfully obtain your private information, contact the police nonemergency number at (808) 935-3311.

Email John Burnett at