KIM KOMANDO

Is Apple’s new Journal app a major privacy nightmare?

Mar 31, 2024, 5:00 AM

The Journal app is seen on an iPhone in this photo illustration taken on 10 November, 2023. (Photo ...

The Journal app is seen on an iPhone in this photo illustration taken on 10 November, 2023. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Apple’s new Journal feature is all about capturing those little moments in life right on your iPhone. But posts started blowing up on social media that (oh no!) because of it, anyone can find your full name and location as well as read your deepest thoughts. Yikes.

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Is all the fearmongering worth our worry? Or is it just another tech urban legend? I got the scoop on Apple Journal, and along the way, I found an even more concerning privacy issue I bet you’ve overlooked. But first …

What’s the deal with Apple Journal?

Think of it as a digital diary on your phone that tracks your videos, photos, audio clips and location data — then sends eerily-timed notifications to inspire you to jot things down.

Say you head out on the town for a night with friends and take pictures at a restaurant. Apple Journal will remember that and send you a prompt to write an entry about it.

According to Apple, this feature doesn’t share this information with the outside world, but plenty of people still thought, “Hmm, maybe not.” I don’t need Tim Cook knowing about my 5th grade crush, thank you very much.

Two settings raised hairs

Journaling Suggestions and Discoverable by Others are causing a commotion. Social media posts spread like wildfire, claiming that these settings give strangers access to your personal information and entries.

First, let’s tackle Journaling Suggestions. I researched it, and Journaling Suggestions are only created based on which apps you use. Plus, you get to control which data gets included.

OK, but can Apple see your entries?

🔍 Myth busted: Nope, your entries are end-to-end encrypted. That means not even Apple can access them.

The Discoverable By Others setting detects nearby iPhone users who also have the Journal app and are “discoverable.” So, does it share your info with passersby?

🔍 I debunked this one, too: This setting doesn’t share your name or location with strangers. It just lets you know how many of your contacts are around to create more personalized prompts.

  • You can easily disable it in your settings:
  • On your iPhone or iPad, open Settings.
  • Tap Privacy & Security > Journaling Suggestions.
  • Toggle Discoverable by Others to the off position.
  • You can also turn off Journaling Suggestions altogether or customize the type of data used to create prompts.

One privacy concern you should be scared of?

Everyone can see your smartphone’s name. Yep, anyone who tries to connect to Wi-Fi will see it in their list of discovered networks as a potential hotspot. That means if you use your real name as your phone’s name, anyone with a smartphone or laptop can see it.

Hackers could use that information to zero in on who (and where) you are. Now, that’s creepy. The good news is you can easily change the name of your phone to something else:

  • iPhone/iPad: Open Settings > General > About > Name. Tap the X, then type in a new name. Hit Done.
  • Android: Go to Settings > About Phone > Device Name. Type in a new name for your phone, then hit OK.

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Is Apple’s new Journal app a major privacy nightmare?