Get PolitiFact in your inbox.

Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone March 4, 2024

Write this down: Apple’s Journal app isn’t telling people who and where you are

If Your Time is short

  • Journal, a new Apple journaling app, prompts users to write entries, based on user-enabled information.

  • One feature, if enabled, uses iPhone location data to prioritize prompts — for example, encouraging entry writing if many other iPhone users are nearby. But that feature doesn’t share personal information, such as names and exact locations, with Journal users.

  • Learn more about PolitiFact’s fact-checking process and rating system.

Apple in December released Journal, a new digital journaling app that lets users  write about their days or special moments and add  photos, audio recordings and video if they wish.

Since then, some social media users have written down privacy concerns about how their information might be shared with others.

A Feb. 29 Facebook post shared an image with the word ALERT in red and three flame emojis at the top. It warned about the privacy risk in a setting in the Journal app.

The post said a setting called "Discoverable by Others" in the app "lets anyone near you know your FULL NAME and EXACTLY where you’re geo-located."

"This is messed up big time. Share with your friends if they’re iPhone. Very scary stuff!!" the post continued.

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

We found multiple other social media posts sharing the same image or making similar claims about the Journal app.

But the posts are wrong about what information iPhone users can see when using Journal and about how the app works. PolitiFact debunked similar privacy concerns in December about Apple’s NameDrop feature, which some people falsely said let strangers steal contact information just by placing one iPhone next to another.

Featured Fact-check

(Facebook screenshot)

People who use the Journal app, which is available for free on devices running on iOS 17.2 or later, can start by adding a text journal entry and decide what other information, such as location or photos, to add. The entries are visible to no one else and are encrypted when stored in iCloud. As extra protection, users can require  two-factor authentication or Face ID to see the entries.

If the user enables Journaling Suggestions in the app, it will "intelligently group moments and events" to provide personalized suggestions, according to an Apple webpage about privacy.

One aspect of the personalized suggestions is at the root of the social media claims that Journal will tell strangers you’re nearby. But that’s not how the app works.

Journaling Suggestions uses Bluetooth to detect how many iPhones and contacts are near you and may prompt you to write a journal entry. But that information isn’t personalized, and isn’t shown to you or anyone. And you won’t see a list of your friends who are nearby, or strangers, as the social media post claims. 

It’s done "without storing which of these specific contacts were around. This information is used to improve and prioritize your suggestions," Apple’s website said. 

Essentially, if you have this feature enabled and attend an event, say a concert that many other people with iPhones were at, you may get a prompt later to write a journal entry about the concert. No iPhone user using Journal, friend or stranger, will get a prompt telling them your name, and that you are nearby, either.

Journal users can turn off "Prefer Suggestions with Others" and "Discoverable by Others" in their privacy and security settings under Journaling Suggestions. Doing so means you won’t get prompts based on the number of nearby iPhones, and your phone location won’t be used to help other Journal users get similar prompts.

So, Journal users, write this down. The app does not tell people, even those you know, who you are and where you’re at. The claim is False.

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Jeff Cercone

Write this down: Apple’s Journal app isn’t telling people who and where you are

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up