iPhone Journaling Discoverable: What Is It and How to Disable It?

Devendra Chande

Apple’s new Journal app on the iPhone, released with iOS 17.2, has sparked some privacy concerns related to a feature called “Discoverable by Others”. Let me tell you what iPhone journaling discoverability is, how it works, and analyze the potential privacy risks.

What is the Journal App?

The Journal app is a new app from Apple designed to help users journal, reflect, and practice gratitude. It allows users to write journal entries about everyday moments and special events, adding photos, videos, audio recordings, locations, news articles, and more to create rich memories.

The app uses on-device machine learning to provide personalized journaling suggestions to inspire entries based on places visited, photos taken, music listened to, workouts completed, and people communicated with recently.

Check: What is Journal for iPhone in iOS 17?

What is Discoverable by Others?

One privacy-related setting in the Journal app is called “Discoverable by Others”. When enabled, this allows nearby iPhone users who also have the Journal app to detect your iPhone via Bluetooth.

The purpose is to allow the Journal app to use this contextual information about nearby people and devices to improve and prioritize journaling suggestions shown to you.

For example, if the Journal app detects you were with several friends at an event, it may show that as a high priority suggestion to write about.

Why Would This Raise Privacy Concerns?

Allowing nearby iPhones to detect your device in order to inform personalized suggestions naturally raises some privacy questions for users:

  • Users may not want their iPhone “discoverable” by others without consent
  • It provides information about who you were near and when
  • There are concerns whether the data could be accessed by or shared with Apple

Importantly, Apple states that:

  • The detection uses Bluetooth only, no specific contacts or details are stored
  • The data stays on your device and is not shared with Apple
  • You can turn the settings off completely if desired

So, while Apple designed this feature with privacy protections, some may still view it as invasive or have general privacy concerns about the Journal app’s access to personal data.

How Does Journaling Discoverability Work?

To understand the privacy implications fully, let’s look at how the Discoverable by Others feature technically functions:

Bluetooth Detection

The Journal app uses Bluetooth to detect nearby iPhone devices also running iOS 17.2 with Journal enabled. However, no identifying details about those devices are stored.

The app simply records the number of devices and whether contacts were present. So, it does not record “Jake’s iPhone” was nearby, only that an iPhone belonging to a contact was close by.

No Data Shared with Apple

Importantly, Apple states that none of this Bluetooth detection data leaves your iPhone. It is used on-device only to help prioritize which journaling suggestions are shown to you in the Journal app.

So, Apple never receives data about who you were near and when.

How to Disable iPhone Journaling Discoverable

As a user, you have full control over whether your device can be discovered by others’ Journal apps:

  • Go to Settings => Privacy & Security => Journaling Suggestions and you can disable your iPhone being discoverable with the “Discoverable by Others” toggle
  • You can disable using others’ discovery data with the “Prefer Suggestions with Others” toggle

Both settings are disabled by default if you choose to turn on journaling suggestions during setup. But many users have reported finding them enabled without consent, so they should be checked.

Conclusion: Limited Privacy Risks Overall

So, while the Discoverable by Others feature in Apple’s new Journal app introduces some valid privacy questions, the risks appear fairly minimal given the safeguards and user controls Apple has implemented.

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Devendra is a full-time writer at ConsideringaApple and he is fond of new things in the tech world. He loves to read novels and write poems. This adventure-seeking guy is a hodophile who has an aim to explore all the beautiful mountains, oceans, cultures, traditions, and foods this world has to offer. Since the release of the first iPhone, he believes in Jobs' vision and praises every Apple product.
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