Evernote Employees Can Read Your Notes. Yes, Really.

Privacy  /  Tech Today
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Update: Following pretty much universal outrage at the change to its privacy policy described in our original post below, Evernote’s CEO reversed course yesterday:

After receiving a lot of customer feedback expressing concerns about our upcoming Privacy Policy changes over the past few days, Evernote is reaffirming its commitment to keep privacy at the center of what we do. As a result, we will not implement the previously announced Privacy Policy changes that were scheduled to go into effect January 23, 2017.

–Evernote CEO Chris O’Neill

Excellent object lesson in the power of the consumer. What further privacy skirmishes will be fought and won in the coming year?

Not a few people have pointed out that privacy policies – those circus tent-sized thickets of legalese – are purpose-built to obscure the extent to which tech companies mine our online data. But eagle-eyed Evernote users did in fact read the fine print of the company’s recent update to its privacy policy, which is set to go into effect on January 23.

As reported by numerous media outlets, Evernote – which already miffed many users in June by both raising subscription rates and limiting devices for free accounts – seems, incomprehensibly, to have crossed a bright line:

In a startling update to its privacy policy, note-taking app Evernote is allowing a select group of employees to read user content for the sake of improving its machine learning technology. What’s perhaps more startling is that it appears Evernote employees have always been able to access note data, but somehow no one noticed. And the kicker? There’s no clear way to opt out other than to quit the service entirely.


Evernote says users can opt out of having their notes reviewed for machine learning purposes, but says that no user can opt out of having their notes read altogether. Employees can also read notes to investigate violations of the company’s terms of service or to comply with law enforcement or court orders.


There is no legitimate reason for you to have to go in and read your customer’s private content (unless they call or post about a technical problem with something specifically, and grant you temporary permission to go in and look at it) and Evernote’s announcement about this change does nothing but make “losing features” appear to be punitive – a way for Evernote to punish the customers who are not “cooperating”.

xshift, as posted in Evernote’s customer forum

In an attempt to calm the waters, Evernote has pointed out that you can always encrypt your stuff to keep it from prying eyes, and that only a limited number of its employees who’ve undergone background checks have access to it. Which, predictably, has had the opposite effect among Evernote customers.

No comment yet from Evernote, but Lifehacker is pointing folks to its post from June: How to Jump Ship from Evernote and Take Your Data With You. If you value your privacy, do not go gently into that good night.