No, the iOS 17 Journal app isn't a privacy risk — what you need to know

iOS 17 Journal app start screen
(Image credit: Future)

The recently-added Journal app for iPhones running iOS 17 has been the subject of some scary-sounding claims about potential privacy risks. Fortunately, there's nothing to actually worry about in this instance.

If you've seen any of the Facebook, Instagram or TikTok posts/videos about this setting (which we won't share), they allege that a particular setting, Discoverable by Others, allows anyone nearby to see your name and location. That understandably sounds alarming, but the official explanation of this feature shows that these claims are highly exaggerated.

But the two settings we need to look at are the Nearby People options — split into Prefer Suggestions with Others and Discoverable by Others. Both of these are part of the Journaling Suggestions options that can be found in the Settings app's Privacy and Security section.

iOS 17's Journaling Suggestions settings, and the path to get there from the main Settings app

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The on-page description of Discoverable by Others is rather brief, but there's an in-depth explanation on Apple's Journaling Suggestions & Privacy guide, linked on this menu page.

iOS 17's Journaling Suggestions explanation page, and where to find the link

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

This reads in part:

"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."

"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 prioritise your suggestions."

To summarize, Prefer Suggestions with Others can detect other devices around you to help with Journal suggestions, but you can't see the details of these other devices, and neither can Apple since the data stays on your phone. Toggling Discoverable by Others on enables you to be used as a potential source of journal prompts, but does not reveal your name or location, even to others nearby.

This is similar to how Apple's Find My network works. By pinging nearby Apple devices, your lost iPhone or AirTag can figure out where it's located, but it does not reveal the location of those other devices.

Perhaps that's still a little too invasive for your liking, in which case you can go and turn off these settings, or disable Journaling Suggestions altogether. But rest assured that this is not an active risk to your safety, whether you use the Journal app or not.

If you missed the Journal app launching at all, it arrived with iOS 17.2 back in December 2023. While you can write entries unprompted, Apple's app is powered in part by Journaling Suggestions, which can draw on your day's activities to help you figure out what to reflect on. Hopefully the app will get smarter - and the explanations of its features more clear - in future updates like iOS 18, expected later this year.

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Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.