The iPhone privacy setting you need to turn off

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Your iPhone is a powerful device that can store and share your personal information, photos, videos, and more. 

It can also help you organize memories and thoughts by using an app like the Journal app. Apple’s new Journal app, helps you reflect on your everyday moments and special events, using on-device machine learning to create personalized suggestions for your journal entries.

What are Journaling Suggestions? 

“Journaling Suggestions” can help you remember moments you may wish to write about in your Journal app.  Suggestions can include photos and videos from your library, including the date they were captured, completed workout details, an interaction you have with someone via the phone, including their name and contact photo, a place you visited, including its name and surrounding city, and more. Apple says this information is aggregated on your device and is not shared with Apple or any other users.

While this may be helpful for remembering moments in life, I am not convinced that a function of my iPhone to replay moments for me to write about is beneficial. In fact, I wonder if, instead, it could steer my own independent thought toward mundane details while missing the essence of memories that come from interactions and emotional experiences I would never want my phone to be able to measure and repeat back to me. If you are like me you can always turn off Journaling Suggestions in Settings and create journal entries from scratch and add your thoughts, memories, photos, and more. 

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The Journal app on an iPhone. (Apple)

Why should you care?

Imagine this: every photo you take, song you play, person you interact with over the phone, or place you visit is recorded and rehashed to you at a later time to refresh your memory so that you can log it down in the Journal.  

For some, they may truly benefit from the prompting of your life’s personal interactions. For me, I’d like less influence from a machine steering my memories. However, it’s a feature intended to enhance user experience by suggesting content based on location, an interaction with a contact, photos taken, and activity data, which Apple’s developer site says falls within their “SuggestionPicker” guidelines.  Apple says this information is stored on your device and is not shared with Apple or any other users. 

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The Journal app (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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What does enabling “Discoverable by Others” do? 

“Discoverable by Others” is a setting within Journaling Suggestions that has raised concerns online about private data being shared. The reality is that the app may use contextual information to determine which suggestions may be more meaningful or relevant to you based on whether there are others around you, without knowing who they are or sharing any information with or about them. 

Apple says this information is used to improve and prioritize your suggestions. It is stored on your device and is not shared with Apple or any other users. If you choose to turn the setting off, you can follow the steps below.

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Turn off Discoverable by Others on iPhone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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How to turn off ‘Discoverable by Others’ feature

  • First, swipe down at the top of your phone and type Settings.
  • Tap Settings and then scroll down until you find Privacy and Security and tap it.
  • Scroll down again until you get to Journaling Suggestions and click on it.
  • Then switch off Discoverable by others.

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Steps to safeguard your privacy on iPhone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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Kurt’s key takeaways

Apple’s Journal app uses machine learning to suggest journal entries people can make. The biggest concern I have is that it interrupts independent thought, letting an app make ‘suggestions’ about logging the interactions of my life. This makes me uncomfortable despite no private data being shared. I’m not convinced that allowing a machine to suggest what I should remember about personal moments in my life is good for me. I don’t want the history of my moments curated back to me by my phone. You can still benefit from recording and reflecting on life’s moments in the Journal app when you choose to disable personalized suggestions. 

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How do you feel about the Journal app’s feature: would you enable your Journaling Suggestions or turn them off? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

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Editor’s note: The article has been updated to reflect Apple’s assertion that its “Discoverable by Others” Journal feature does not share personal data with Apple or other iPhone users.