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Evernote CEO Responds to Privacy Concerns Over New Policy (Updated)

evernote privacy concerns

Evernote had a bit of a rough day yesterday, after it released its new privacy policy and users showed immediate concern over the idea they couldn’t fully opt-out of Evernote’s employees potentially viewing their stored content on the service. This morning, their CEO, Chris O’Neill, posted a message to the company blog to try and clarify.

O’Neill opened by suggesting that his company heard your concerns and then apologized for communicating the changes “poorly.” He also mentioned that your confusion over the matter was “understandable,” before diving into what has and hasn’t changed. 

You should read his full blog post at the source link below, but here is the meat of what is and isn’t changing:

What’s Not Changing
Privacy has always been at the heart of Evernote, and we’re as committed as ever to upholding our Three Laws of Data Protection. These laws guide everything we do, and, I believe, represent industry-leading standards for privacy.

In enforcing these laws, Evernote employees do not view the content of user notes except in very limited cases. Like other internet companies, we must comply with legal requirements such as responding to a warrant, investigating violations of our Terms of Service such as reports of harmful or illegal content, and troubleshooting at the request of users. The number of employees who are authorized to view this content is extremely limited by our existing policies, and I am personally involved in defining them.

What Is Changing
We believe we can make our users even more productive with technologies such as machine learning that will allow you to automate functions you now have to do manually, like creating to-do lists or putting together travel itineraries. Machine learning might sound like science fiction where computers make their own decisions. In reality, machines still need a human to check on them. To get there, Evernote data scientists need to do spot checks as they develop the technology. We’ll introduce this change on January 23, 2017, but you control whether or not your data is used for this purpose at any time.

If you choose to participate in these experimental features, you’ll enjoy a more personalized experience. Select Evernote employees may see random content to ensure the features are working properly but they won’t know who it belongs to. They’ll only see the snippet they’re checking. Not only that, but if a machine identifies any personal information, it will mask it from the employee.

So two things here – 1) Evernote is suggesting that there are going to be times when they need to view your content no matter what, because they need to “comply with legal requirements such as responding to a warrant, investigating violations of our Terms of Service such as reports of harmful or illegal content, and troubleshooting at the request of users.” 2) Their machine learning really does require an employee to peak at content here and there to make sure it’s right and improving, but you can opt-out of that if you want.

To me, that leaves us exactly where we were yesterday, especially when you look at the line in the privacy policy under the “Do Evernote employees access or review my data?” section that says they may need to view content “for troubleshooting purposes or to maintain and improve the Service.” That’s a pretty vague reason that could be used in almost any situation to view a user’s content.

Look, I’m not here to tell you to stay with or leave Evernote, but understand that there are privacy concerns here and they don’t appear to be going away even with today’s clarification. Again, you’ll want to read the new privacy policy word for word and decide for yourself. You can read it here.

UPDATE: Evernote gave in, this evening, and has announced that it will not move forward with the proposed privacy policy. Details here.

Via:  Evernote

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