It’s becoming an all-too-common commute horror story in big cities: an unknown man on the train uses the iPhone’s AirDrop function to send a woman an unsolicited photo of his penis.
On Nov. 28, four New York city council lawmakers introduced a bill that would criminalize this kind of harassment, known as “cyberflashing,” and punish it with a $1,000 fine or even a year in jail.
Not only is it a horrible experience, it can be triggering, traumatizing people who’ve experienced sexual violence.
“In the old days, you had to have a long trench coat and good running shoes,” councilman Joseph Borelli told the New York Times (paywall). “Technology has made it significantly easier to be a creep.”
It seems that it would be very hard to enforce the law, which is framed to ban any sort of unwanted electronic messages of a sexual nature. To AirDrop an image, you must be within 30 ft (9.1 m) of the recipient, since the feature uses Bluetooth technology. But as a Verge writer showed several years ago in a prank, you can very easily hide your identity by changing the name of your phone. UK police told NBC News that taking a screenshot of the image could help in a subsequent investigation, but it also said people rarely report “cyberflashing.”
The good news is that you can shield your phone, and your eyes, by ensuring that your AirDrop is set to “Contacts Only,” as shown in the image below.