NBC News has both a harrowing and completely horrible story about how harassers are using iOS’ AirDrop technology to send threatening and sexually inappropriate messages to strangers in public.
First some background on what AirDrop is. It’s a file transfer technology that allows iPhone, iPad, and Mac users to effortlessly send files to other iOS devices or Mac users within 30 feet of each other. AirDrop does not require an internet connection. Instead, it uses Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi to make a local area connection between two devices so they can transfer files between them.
It’s because of this reason that people can send files to each other even when on the Tube. But while the convenience is nice, AirDrop has become a favorite tool of sickos like sexual harassers. It’s popular with them because AirDrop does not tell you the actual name of the person sending you the file–only the name of their device–which they can change to anything.
While a person still needs to accept an AirDrop request to receive the actual file, AirDrop gives the user a preview of the file in the notification message. As you can imagine, this makes it easy for one stranger on a packed Tube to send a dick pic to his victim in the same carriage.
As NBC News reports:
“Abigail Mentzer was riding the New York City subway to a doctor’s appointment when she says an AirDrop request popped up on her iPhone. A preview image of the file showed a CD with the handwritten message, ‘Songs I’ll choke you out to while wrecking your uterus.’ Feeling disgusted and threatened, she looked around the train car, wondering who had sent it. Then, three more messages came through, including images of a woman’s bare behind and more offensive language.”
Now, by default, Apple makes sure AirDrop is only set to receive file transfer requests from people in your contacts–so by default you’ll know who an AirDrop transfer is coming from. But sometimes a user may set AirDrop preferences to accept files from “everyone”–which means anyone who is within 30 feet of you. Since the sender is not in your contacts, you’ll only see the name of the device they are sending you the file from.
Setting AirDrop to “everyone” is useful in certain circumstances, such as if you are at a professional convention and you want to quickly exchange work-related files with someone you just met. But as NBC showed, this setting can be abused by perverts.
So to protect yourself from AirDrop harassment you’ll want to set your AirDrop settings to off or only contacts. Here’s how to do that.
How To Change Your AirDrop Settings:
- Go to Settings > General > AirDrop.
- To turn AirDrop off, tap “Receiving Off”.
- To allow AirDrops only from your contacts, tap “Contacts Only”.
- To let anyone send you an AirDrop file (EVEN PERVERTS), tap “Everyone”.
Obviously, “Contacts Only” is the best all-around option.