iOS 17.2+ "Discoverable by Others" Setting

There’s a March 22, 2024 article in the Wall Street Journal describing a peculiar default setting that started appearing in iOS 17.2 with Apple’s Journal app.

I’m not sure if this WSJ link will work for everyone, so I’ve quoted from a few paragraphs:

Apple Turned On a Buried iPhone Setting. You Might Want It Off.

The ‘Discoverable by Others’ switch is on by default. Here’s what it does—and why it isn’t as scary as it sounds.

When you go into Settings > Privacy & Security > Journaling Suggestions, you’ll see that Discoverable by Others is enabled by default—even if you never turned on suggestions. Under the setting it says, “Allow others to detect you are nearby to help prioritize their suggestions.”

A company spokeswoman said claims on social media that Apple is sharing your name and location with others are inaccurate. The phone can use Bluetooth to detect the number of devices nearby that are in your contacts. It doesn’t store which of these specific contacts were around but instead may use this as context to improve and prioritize journaling suggestions, the spokeswoman said.

I agree with the WSJ reporter that the privacy concern is less serious than the setting name of “Discoverable by Others” makes it sound, but it does seem like a questionable setting for Apple to turn on by default and without notifying the user.

A lot of users expect Apple to be biased in a particular direction when it comes to privacy, so it’s noticeable when Apple appears to make a choice going in the other direction.


The details are going to make all the difference.

If, as Apple claims, all this will do is let others get prompts like “You were at the movies with 7 people in your contacts list”. That’s mostly harmless.

If it says “You were at the movies with Jim, Bob, Larry, Sam, Gordon, Arnold and Squidboy”, well, then that’s different.

Now I do realize that there can be edge cases. Especially if you’re thinking about dissidents that don’t want to be spotted by government agents. An agent with a phone completely populated with dissidents’ information probably wouldn’t get anything useful from “You were on the subway with one of your contacts”. But might be very very interested to learn “You were on the subway with 20 of your contacts”.

For me, I don’t think it matters, but I did turn it off anyway, since I don’t use Journal, and neither do any of my friends and family. But yeah, this is definitely not harmless for some categories of people.

Appreciate the heads up. Two days ago I had a suggestion from Journal that I might like to write about going to a certain restaurant, and I found it rather creepy. All settings now corrected. Thanks!