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Millions of iPhone users had a mysterious new setting automatically switched on

The setting sounds creepy to say the least
  • A mysterious new setting was included in Apple’s latest software update
  • The setting is found under the iPhone’s privacy and security settings
  • When switched on, the feature uses historical data stored on the phone

Published on Apr 3, 2024 at 2:44PM (UTC+4)

Last updated on Apr 4, 2024 at 12:47PM (UTC+4)

Edited by Adam Gray
Millions of iPhone users had a mysterious new setting automatically switched on

When Apple released its latest software update, a mysterious new setting was automatically switched on for millions of iPhone users around the world.

The setting, ‘Discoverable by Others’, is found under ‘Journalling Suggestions’ in the privacy and security settings section of iPhones.

Journalling Suggestions goes hand-in-hand with the new Journal app, which was released as part of iOS 17.2 in December, 2023.

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But back to the mysterious setting – when an iPhone user turns the feature on, Apple said it uses historical data stored on their phone.

This data includes music, photos, workouts, who they have called or texted, and significant locations, giving them suggestions of what moments to write about in the Journal app.

The problem is, though – even if you don’t turn on Journalling Suggestions, the ‘Discoverable by Others’ features remains enabled by default.

And even if you have deleted the Journal app, it remains enabled.

According to Joanna Stern, senior personal technology columnist at The Wall Street Journal, it’s not as scary as it sounds, however, she suggests you might want to turn it off anyway.

As to be expected, the mysterious feature has caused somewhat of a stir online, so Stern decided to look into it.

She was told by Apple that the phone can use Bluetooth to detect devices nearby in your contacts, without storing which of these specific contacts were around.

It then uses this as context to improve Journalling Suggestions.

Of course, Apple has denied that it is sharing users’ names and locations with others, as some people have claimed on social media.

To reinforce the point further, Apple used the example of hosting a dinner party at your house, with friends who are in your contacts.

According to the tech giant, the system might prioritize the event in Journalling Suggestions, as it recognizes it wasn’t just your average night at home with your family because of the headcount.

“Even if this all makes sense to avid journalers (I haven’t met any), why does Apple have ‘discoverable’ on by default?” Stern asked. “Why not just ask me when I turn on Journaling Suggestions?”

In response, an Apple spokeswoman told Stern it was done so users get this benefit, regardless of whether their friends and people around them are using the Journal app or not.

A quick look at Apple’s support page explains that if you disable ‘Discoverable by Others’ to not be included in your contacts’ counts, ‘Prefer Suggestions with Others’ will also be disabled.

This means Journalling Suggestions will not detect how many devices and contacts are around you.

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