Police departments from New Jersey to California have been sounding the alarm in recent days about NameDrop, a new feature in Apple’s latest iPhone operating system that allows users to exchange contact information wirelessly.

Apple declined to comment, but experts say warnings that “scammers and thieves” could exploit the feature to collect a user’s personal information appear exaggerated, if not completely unfounded.

For starters, devices must be practically touching for NameDrop to work, and both users must agree to share information.

Mark Bartholomew, a law professor who specializes in cyber law at the University at Buffalo, said NameDrop had enough stopgap measures to prevent someone’s information from being stolen.

“To the extent that there is panic here about non-consensual taking of contact information, I’m not that worried,” he said.

Here’s what you need to know.

To use the feature, Apple users must have updated their devices to the latest version of the operating system: iOS 17.1 for iPhone or WatchOS 10.1 for Apple Watch, both of which have the feature enabled by default.

Users hold one device over the other, a few centimeters away, until NameDrop appears on both screens. They can then choose to exchange contact details, or one may simply receive the other’s contact information without reciprocating. A trade-in can be canceled by removing a device or locking its screen before the transfer is complete.

NameDrop works similarly to AirDrop, allowing Apple laptop, iPhone, and iPad users to exchange photos as long as they are within Bluetooth and Wi-Fi range. But while some people exploited that feature in its early days to harass unsuspecting strangers with explicit images, it appears to be much more difficult, if not impossible, to use NameDrop to send unwanted information or collect personal data without consent.

Even if someone has NameDrop enabled on an iPhone, the phone must be almost touching another device for the feature to work, and both users would still have to agree to share. And even then, the only information that is shared is the details that users have added to their contact cards.

The warnings, mostly shared on Facebook, follow a similar format. NameDrop allows information to be shared between phones that come into close contact, the warnings say. Young people are at particular risk, police say, telling parents to disable the feature on their children’s phones and their own phones as well.

Not all warnings were without nuance. For example, police in South Bend, Indiana, explained the feature in a post which aimed to separate what he described as “rumors” from “facts.”

Responding to a rumor that enabling NameDrop allows people to “retrieve your contact information simply by walking past you,” the department explained that devices must be within centimeters of each other and that users must tap “share” to exchange information. .

Because NameDrop was automatically enabled as a default setting with the new iOS 17.1, some iPhone users who updated their devices may not even realize they have it.

If you want to disable it, the steps are simple: go to iPhone settings, tap “General” and select “Airdrop.” Then, uncheck the “Join Devices” option.

Even if NameDrop privacy concerns are largely unfounded, Professor Bartholomew of the University at Buffalo said it might be helpful to be skeptical about the emerging technology.

“Too often we look at new technologies and exchange our information without thinking about the advantages and disadvantages,” he said. When a new feature is introduced, he added, “we should be cautious before adopting it.”