Evernote Updates Privacy Policy, Lets Employees Read Users' Notes: You Can't Opt Out Of It Either


A recent change in Evernote's privacy policy this week is causing quite a bit of tumult among its user base, and a reasonable stir, at that. The updated privacy policy will allow select Evernote employees to access and read user content as fodder for improving its machine learning technology.

Even more startling is that Evernote employees have always had access to user data, though this largely ran unnoticed. But the worst thing about the privacy overhaul sees users unable to opt out; as long as they're using the service, users are gridlocked within Evernote's data-collection scheme.

Evernote's Privacy Policy Update

Several of the app's users, dismayed at the changes, have turned to Twitter to bark at Evernote, calling the prospect of data-collection "hostile."

According to Evernote's privacy policy, users may opt out of machine learning technologies on their content, the consequence of which bars the user from getting "the most out of [the] Evernote experience." But this is not the problem. The controversy sprung from another, more problematic paragraph:

"And please note that you cannot opt out of employees looking at your content for other reasons stated in our Privacy Policy," it reads, housed under the "Does Evernote Share My Personal Information or Content?" section.

Evernote has basically spelled out that it can look at user data whenever it pleases, and there's virtually no way to prevent it from doing as stated. Except, of course, if users leave the service altogether, a notion some users have already welcomed.

"[I]t's time to find a new service," a Twitter user has quipped.

The updated privacy policy goes into effect Jan. 23, 2017. Users who'll continue using the service after the said date automatically consent to Evernote's new policies.

Why Does Evernote Need To Access User Data?

What's caused people to run up in arms about the new policies is Evernote's vaguely-worded reasoning behind its intent to collect data, listed under the "Do Evernote Employees Access or Review My Data?" section.

"We need to do so for troubleshooting purposes or to maintain and improve the Service," said Evernote.

Can I Make My Notes Private?

There's one measure users can take in light of the hubbub, and that is to lock content with a password. Inside a note, users can highlight a block of text considered sensitive or private, and choose to encrypt it. This means that only the user is privy to the encrypted text. That is, of course, if users "trust Evernote is handling its encryption right," according to Forbes' Thomas Fox-Brewster.

Greg Chiemingo, the company's head of communications, has responded to Forbes' queries about the updated privacy policy.

With regard to which employees can view user data, their roles, and what type of machine learning tools Evernote is seeking to improve, Chiemingo explained:

"First, the employees who have access are verifying the veracity of the machine learning algorithm so the note content is dependent on the feature," he said. "[A]n engineer would be assessing whether or not the machine learning algorithm has identified 'United' as related to a flight itinerary and not a moving company so he or she isn't reading the note content, they are verifying that piece of the content to ensure the system is working properly."

For those unconvinced, there's always Google Keep, Microsoft OneNote, or a real-life note pad.

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