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Check this privacy feature before you use the iPhone’s new Journal app

Published Dec 13th, 2023 9:15PM EST
Journal app iOS 17.2
Image: Apple Inc.

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Apple released iOS 17.2 earlier this week, introducing the highly-anticipated Journal app. While I initially thought I wouldn’t need it, I’m reconsidering the app for specific purposes, like traveling and workouts. Therefore, I will tweak the app’s Journaling Suggestions to meet my needs. I might not even use the suggestions and stick with manual entries.

However, exploring the Journal app also made me realize there’s an important privacy setting iPhone users should consider turning on now that the Journal app is here, whether they want to journal or not. Specifically, the iPhone will now detect other devices around you to potentially use that information in journaling suggestions.

All the Journal data is stored on the iPhone and not shared with Apple. Therefore, the detection feature should be private. But Apple has a new setting that lets you avoid being associated with anyone’s smart Journal suggestions.

Apple addresses the privacy features of the Journal app in the Journaling Suggestions splash screen that appears in the app. The document explains how the Journal app handles the data, how it makes smart suggestions, and how it protects your privacy.

You can choose what information to be part of those journaling suggestions.
You can choose what information to be part of those journaling suggestions. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR

There’s a Nearby People chapter that addresses suggestions related to important people in your life, and how the iPhone determines those people are important:

Journaling Suggestions may also use contextual information to determine which suggestions may be more meaningful or relevant to you. Journaling Suggestions uses Bluetooth to detect the number of devices and contacts around you without storing which of these specific contacts were around. This information is used to improve and prioritize your suggestions. It is stored on device, and is not shared with Apple.

Apple explains that Journal users can choose to disable the feature to stop their iPhones from collecting data about nearby people:

You can choose not to allow Journaling Suggestions to use the number of devices and contacts around you to prioritize your suggestions by going to Settings > Privacy & Security > Journaling Suggestions, then tapping to turn off Prefer Suggestions with Others.

But other people nearby a Journal user can also restrict access, as Apple explains:

You can also control whether your contacts include you in their number of nearby contacts by going to Settings > Privacy & Security > Journaling Suggestions, then tapping to turn off Discoverable by Others. If you disable Discoverable by Others and choose not to be included in your contacts’ counts, Prefer Suggestions with Others will also be disabled and Journaling Suggestions will not detect how many devices and contacts are around you to improve or prioritize your suggestions.

I'm preventing other people's Journal apps to detect my iPhone.
I’m preventing other people’s Journal apps from detecting my iPhone. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR

That’s not to say that family, friends, and colleagues can’t write about you if you turn the feature off. They just won’t be able to detect your device when it’s close by.

I, for one, don’t want the iPhone belonging to anyone close to me to be able to detect me or my devices. It’s a matter of personal preference.

Even if I end up writing about my friends or family members in the Journal app, I’d still turn the feature off. I don’t need my iPhone to ping and/or collect device data around me. If anything, it might be better for the phone battery not to do that. I’m speculating here, as I have no idea what journaling suggestions do to the iPhone’s battery.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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