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The Creepy Reason Other People’s Photos May Start Appearing on Your Phone


If you have an iPhone or iPad you may notice something weird happening soon–if it hasn’t already struck you. A photo you didn’t take or download appears on your phone out of nowhere. What gives?

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According to, all iPhone 5s and newer and fourth-generation-or-newer iPads have the ability to send and receive photos, videos, and more using AirDrop, a means of sharing files between Apple devices without using Internet. The problem is anyone with an iPhone or iPad near your device can send you something whether or not you know them. They don’t need your phone number or email address. They can just select your phone from a drop-down list of nearby devices. So a stranger you walk by in the mall or sit near on a plane can AirDrop you a picture.

It sounds crazy, but we tested it with two staffers who’ve never shared anything with each other via their phones, and sure enough, the file went through.

AirDrop iPhone

As you can see, you can decline or accept whether the photo saves on your device, but who hasn’t accidentally hit a button on their phone before? And if it’s an offensive image, it doesn’t matter if you decline to save it to your device–you’ve already seen it!

So what can you do? Turn OFF AirDrop on your phone. It may be off already–in which case, no one should be able to attempt to share anything with you–but you can check by tapping the bottom of your home screen and dragging your finger upward until you see this.

iPhone AirDrop Screen

Then, tap AirDrop. If under “AirDrop:” it says “Everyone,” then anyone who’s ever in your vicinity can attempt to send you a file.

iPhone AirDrop Permission

To shut this off, tap “AirDrop: Everyone.” Then, you’ll see this:

Turn off iphone airdrop

Tap “Off,” and no one will be able to AirDrop files to you. Tap “Contacts Only,” and then only people you’ve contacted before can AirDrop files to you.

AirDrop is useful for sending large files that are too big to send as email attachments and for sending files when you don’t have Internet access. And you can always turn AirDrop back on after you’ve shut it off. But you may want to leave it off to avoid getting unwanted pictures.

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Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.