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Evernote Admits It 'Messed Up' And Backtracks On Policy Change, Reaffirming Commitment To Privacy

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Evernote apologized for its recent policy change and admitted it "messed up," promising to revisit the policy and treat users' privacy as a top priority.

For those unfamiliar with the whole debacle, earlier this week Evernote announced a controversial policy change that would let employees read users' notes. That clearly stops on user privacy and Evernote went under fire over its policy change, receiving heavy criticism especially since users were not allowed to opt out of it.

"We Messed Up"

Following the uproar it caused, Evernote has now backtracked on its proposed changes, reversing the policy that was supposed to allow select employees to read user notes to improve machine learning algorithms.

"We announced a change to our privacy policy that made it seem like we didn't care about the privacy of our customers or their notes. This was not our intent, and our customers let us know that we messed up, in no uncertain terms. We heard them, and we're taking immediate action to fix it," says Evernote CEO Chris O'Neill.

The CEO adds that while machine learning can lead to great things, Evernote will ask for users' permission rather than assume it already has it. O'Neill further apologizes for disappointing Evernote users, pointing out that Evernote is revising its entire privacy policy to make amends.

User Privacy

The move to revise its privacy policy stems from a widespread protest from Evernote users, as many threatened to stop using the service if the policy would go into effect. The proposed policy aimed to improve Evernote's machine learning capabilities by enabling select employees to access users' private information and read their notes to help train the algorithms.

O'Neill said that machine learning technologies would help Evernote users be more productive, as they would enable the automation of various functions such as creating to-do lists or travel itineraries, which are now done manually.

Evernote employees wouldn't have sifted through all 200 million users' notes if the policy went into effect, they'd only have seen random snippets of content to ensure the machine learning features were working correctly. Personal information would have been hidden and employees wouldn't have known whose notes they were reading.

Nevertheless, such an invasion of privacy would have likely prompted a mass exodus from the note-taking platform, which currently has roughly 200 million users in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Consequently, Evernote has canceled this controversial update. The new privacy policy was supposed to go into effect on Jan. 23, but it's no longer the case.

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