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We have a very large instance of Jira Data Center v8.20.10 and JSM v4.20.10.
Yep, a hidden field with a default will take on the default when the users can't set it.
Technically, it's not wrong - the default is telling Jira to set a value when the users don't choose one. The fact you've chosen not to offer them the option to do so is not important.
This sort of thing is endemic in all sorts of systems. Defaults, templates, and pre-filled fields absolutely need to be minimised and only used when they actually help make life easier for people. Whenever you think you should use one, always question it. Is it really going to help? If you're not asking people to think about what they're entering, do you even need to ask them for it?
Yeah, I figured out that a custom field with a global context and a default value will give a default value to the field for every single project's issue.
Again, I inherited this instance and am performing cleanup on it.
It still does seem wrong that if a project is in no way associated with a field (like through a screen) that it should get a value for a custom field.