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No, the Journal app on your iPhone isn’t spying on you

Apple Journal app on an iPhone 15 Pro.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

If you’ve spent any time on Facebook, TikTok, or any other social media site over the last couple of days, there’s a chance you’ve seen people claiming that your iPhone is spying on you — specifically, with a feature called “Journaling Suggestions.”

One post I stumbled across on Facebook made it sound rather frightening, warning me that the feature shares my FULL NAME and EXACTLY where I’m located to anyone nearby. The post told me to go and toggle the setting off immediately because it was “Very scary stuff!!”

However, as is often the case with these things, this isn’t exactly true.

The Journaling Suggestions setting was added to iPhones last year as part of the iOS 17 update that introduced Apple’s Journal app. You can find it by opening the Settings app, selecting Privacy & Security > Journaling Suggestions. From here, you’ll find two toggles: Prefer Suggestions with Others and Discoverable by Others. At the top of the page is also a list of what data Journaling Suggestions can pull from, including activity, media, contacts, photos, and significant locations.

Posts on Facebook, TikTok, and other social media posts claim that these features make your iPhone visible to other people nearby and blatantly share your name and precise location with strangers. In reality, that’s not at all what’s happening.

Privacy settings for Journaling Suggestions on the iPhone.
Digital Trends

On the Journaling Suggestions page is a hyperlink called “About Journaling Suggestions & Privacy.” Tapping on this presents an entire page explaining how these features work, including this section:

“Journaling Suggestions uses on-device processing to intelligently group moments and events, in order to provide you with personalized suggestions. Using information stored on your device, Journaling Suggestions can recommend to you special moments to remember and write about. You control which suggestions are shared with journaling apps that use Journaling Suggestions.

“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.”

It’s correct that Journaling Suggestions does use your contacts and location to power the feature. However, it never shares your name, location, or other information with other people.

There’s certainly no harm in disabling the Journaling Suggestions feature, particularly if you don’t use Apple’s Journal app or another journaling app that also uses Journaling Suggestions (such as Day One). However, it’s also not stealing and harvesting your personal information the way many people online are claiming.

Stay safe and smart, folks.

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Joe Maring
Section Editor, Mobile
Joe Maring is the Section Editor for Digital Trends' Mobile team, leading the site's coverage for all things smartphones…
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