How to Prevent Cyberflashing

For some reason, men feel compelled to share pictures of their genitalia, somehow certain that others will be thankful for the gift. And if the settings on your Apple devices are too permissive, you may end up being an unwilling recipient. This hit the news headlines recently when a flight to Cabo was nearly grounded due to a male passenger dropping pictures of his junk onto the iPhones of other passengers and one of the pilots. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to prevent.

What is Cyberflashing?

Sending unsolicited nude pics via SMS could be considered cyberflashing. But using text messages requires at least knowing someone’s cell phone number. Apparently the more accepted definition of cyberflashing today involves sending unwanted nudes via Apple’s AirDrop feature.

So, the next question is: what is AirDrop? AirDrop is feature of Apple products that allows you to send files (including images) to another Apple device using a mix of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It’s very convenient – I use it all the time between my many Apple devices.

To send an image to another Apple device, you select the picture and then click the Share icon (a little rectangle with an arrow pointing up). One of the options will be AirDrop, which looks sorta like the Wi-Fi symbol. It will show you all the nearby Apple devices that are capable of receiving it. And if you don’t restrict this, your Apple devices will show up as an AirDrop target for other people nearby. So you can see how this can be abused.

Preventing Cyberflashing

Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to block unwanted AirDrops. First, you’re always given a choice of whether to accept an incoming AirDrop request. If you’re not expecting it, you should always refuse. But you can also prevent your device from showing up as a possible receiver by changing your AirDrop settings.

To restrict AirDrop on your iPhone and/or iPad, go to Settings, then General, then AirDrop. You have three choices: Receiving Off, Contacts Only, and Everyone. I would select Contacts Only, but of course you can disable it altogether by selecting Receiving Off.

To restrict AirDrop on your Mac, open any Finder window. You should see “AirDrop” as an option in the left hand sidebar. Click it and then you’ll see the general AirDrop pane. At the very bottom, there’s a link that says “Allow me to be discovered by”. Click this and set it to either Contacts Only or No One.

Apparently we need some sort of standardized signal like Global Privacy Control that says “no dick pics”.

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