AirDrop apologists have some opinions

Who knew suggesting that an Apple interface enabled undesirable outcomes and ought to be changed would be so controversial? Me–I’ve been critiquing Apple’s products since before the company was doooomed in 1996.

But even so, the level of enraged techsplaining that greeted last weekend’s Yahoo post about AirDrop file-sharing has been something else. To recap that briefly: While AirDrop’s default contacts-only setting is safe, accepting a file transfer from somebody not in your contacts requires setting it to “Everyone”–a setting that does not time out but does automatically display a preview of the incoming image. The predictable result: creeps spamming strangers who had set AirDrop to Everyone and then forgot to change it back, and by “spamming” I mean “sending dick pics from iPhones with anonymous names.”

AirDrop settings screen on an iPhone.(For more details, see my Aug. 2017 USA Today column or this Dec. 4 post from the security firm Sophos.)

Suggesting that Apple have the Everyone setting time out or not auto-preview images did not go over well the people–most apparently men–who filled the replies to my tweet Sunday sharing the post. Let me sum up the major points these individuals vainly attempted to make, as seen in quotes from their tweets:

“It’s contacts only by default.” Yes, and if nobody ever interacted with people who weren’t in their contacts and offered to use this handy feature to share in a file, you would have a point. As is, this request comes up all the time–my wife saw it from Apple Store employees–as I explained in the post that these techbros apparently did not finish reading.

“Still trying to make a big deal of something I’ve never experienced.” Thank you, sir, for proving my exact point about the problems of having development teams dominated by white men. As writing about “Gamergate” made obvious, things are often different for the rest of humanity, and “I don’t have this problem” is not a valid defense of a social feature without confirmation from people outside your demographic background. Sorry if asking you to acknowledge your privilege is so triggering, by which I mean I’m not sorry.

“At some point, you have to take some goddamn responsibility.” Ah yes, the old blame-the-customer instinct. I hope the multiple people who expressed some version of “why are you coddling people too dumb to turn Everything off” don’t and never will work in any customer-facing role.

“you don’t have to accept every airdrop item that comes in.” What part of “automatically display a preview” don’t you understand?

“What I don’t understand is why these creeps aren’t reported by the receivers to authorities.” What part of “iPhones with anonymous names” don’t you understand? And before you next resort to victim blaming like this, you should really read up on the relevant history.

“There are far worse UX issues in iOS if that is what you are concerned about.” News flash, whataboutists: I write about problems in the tech industry all the time. Stick around and you’ll see me take a whack at a company besides your sainted Apple.

And that brings me to the annoying subtext beneath all these aggrieved responses: The notion that questioning Apple’s design choice is an unreasonable stretch, so we should look anywhere else for solutions to what even most of my correspondents agreed was a problem. Well, if that’s your attitude, turn in your capitalist card: You’re not a customer, you’re a supplicant. And I don’t have to take your opinion here seriously.

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Weekly output: Apple’s AirDrop privacy error

I’m home for the shortest interval ever between trips, but it’s not my work’s fault. After four days getting an update on consumer-electronics trends at the IFA Global Press Conference (this year, that event took place on the Spanish coast; as in prior years, the organizers covered most of my travel costs and those of the other invited journalists and analysts), I’m flying to Cleveland early tomorrow morning for my Uncle Jim’s funeral.

If this post gets you to call or e-mail an aunt or uncle you haven’t talked to in a while, then it’s been more useful than most of these roundups.

4/27/2019: The feature Apple needs to change in AirDrop, Yahoo Finance

I’ve written about how the design of the AirDrop file-sharing feature in iOS enables harassment from creeps trying to send dick pics and other unwanted images to strangers. But hearing my wife talk about how a visit by our daughter’s Brownie troop to the neighborhood Apple Store end with a store employee offering to AirDrop pictures of the kids to the parents there—an invitation they could only accept by setting AirDrop to accept files from “Everyone,” which would in turn leave them open to “cyber-flashing”–led me to decide to take another whack at Apple for leaving this flaw unfixed.

To all the men who have commented that they’ve never had this problem and, come on, it’s not that hard to change the setting back: Thanks for making my case that we need more diversity on development teams, and please don’t join any yourself.