No, the iPhone Journal app is not sharing your name and location with strangers. What to know about the app’s privacy settings.

Another new feature on the iPhone has users misunderstanding whether it's safe to use.

In this photo illustration, logo of a journaling app for iOS is seen on a smartphone along with Apple logo
Journal is a new app for iOS. (Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA; images: LightRocket via Getty Images)

Contrary to what people are saying on Facebook and TikTok, Apple doesn’t want to share your journal entries with strangers.

After Apple rolled out its most recent iOS software update in late February, users noticed the update automatically downloaded Journal, the new app Apple announced in December 2023. The app is designed to be like a digital diary, with the option for users to pin locations and upload photos alongside their writing, as well as daily writing and reflection prompts.

But iPhone users across social media have started raising the alarm about the app by sharing warnings about its default settings. In a widely shared description that’s been copy-and-pasted across social media (aka “copypasta”), people alleged that the “Discoverable by Others” feature in the Journal app’s settings would let “anyone near you know your full name and exactly where you’re geo located.”

No, the iPhone Journal app will not give out your personal information

Part of what the Journal app does is provide curated ideas for its “Journaling Suggestions” section by using Bluetooth. The suggestions are for Journal users who might have writer’s block or who want prompts for their entries rather than engaging in freewriting.

The suggestions include a user’s Activity (workouts and exercise), Media (podcasts and music), Contacts (people regularly messaged or called), Photos (from the iPhone photo library and shared photos) and Significant Locations (either recurring locations or spots you spend the most time in). By analyzing these areas, Journal is able to produce hyperspecific entry prompts.

“Discoverable by Others,” a feature in the Journal app which is enabled by default, picks up the number of devices you’re near as well as any saved contacts you come within Bluetooth range of. However, it does not save any details of the contacts or people you’re near to your phone, nor does it reveal any of your information to anyone else.

In fact, it’s similar to the AirDrop feature, which allows nearby users to share information wirelessly. As with AirDrop, any sharing has to be “approved” by the recipient.

The goal is, essentially, for Journal to have some idea of what you did that day. If you were near a saved contact, perhaps you were with friends that day (Journal will not know or share exactly which contact you were with but will acknowledge you spent time with “one of your contacts”). If you were surrounded by a ton of other devices at some point, the app could indicate you were out doing something that day versus at home alone. With that information, the Journal can come up with prompts for you to write about your day.

On its site, Apple writes that the Journaling Suggestions are to “help you remember and reflect on your experiences.” The information compiled from Bluetooth is stored on the individual’s iPhone and not shared with Apple.

Journal does not share your personal information — name or location — with anyone.

Misinformation surrounding iPhone app safety isn’t new

The backlash and fear are reminiscent of the reactions to another misunderstood Apple iPhone feature: NameDrop.

Released in September 2023, NameDrop is similar to the AirDrop feature, in which iPhone users can exchange basic data with each other as long as their devices are nearby. AirDrop is used for sharing and receiving photos and documents; NameDrop allows users to share each other’s contact information without having to hand the device to the other person and have them input the information themselves.

Warnings went viral across social media, with people claiming that the feature “allowed the sharing of your contact info just by bringing your phones close together” and added that parents should “consider changing these settings after the update on your children’s phones” to “help keep them safe.”

Apple reiterated that for NameDrop to work, both devices must be unlocked and “within a few centimeters” of each other, and users have to tap a “Share” button to complete the exchange. No contact information is automatically shared if two iPhones are simply near each other.

How to turn off ‘Discoverable by Others’ on the iPhone Journal app

Users can control whether they are discoverable by other Journal app users by disabling the feature.

  • To turn it off, go to “Settings,” then “Privacy & Security.” Click on “Journaling Suggestions” and toggle “Discoverable by Others” off.

Users can also turn off Journal’s ability to use the number of nearby devices and contacts to develop writing suggestions.

  • Go to “Settings,” then “Privacy & Security.” Click on “Journaling Suggestions,” then tap off “Prefer Suggestions with Others.”

Turning off both features, however, will make Journaling Suggestions not as accurate or specific when providing prompts.

Other privacy concerns with the Journal app

Under Apple’s Journaling Suggestions & Privacy page, the company emphasizes that Journal entries are encrypted when the iPhone is locked and are also encrypted and stored on the user’s iCloud. There is nothing specifically denying that Apple collects data from Journal, although most of the data used in Journal — the user's photos and location, for example — is already on their iPhone.

In addition to the encryption, users can also enable secondary authentication to open the Journal app, as well as lock the app with the iPhone passcode, Face ID or Touch ID.