Evernote had a roller coaster week in the news when their new terms and conditions were released. Their proposed changes were nothing that other companies do all the time, tune their terms to adjust to their changing business models. However, Evernote threw something in there that made people lose their minds, and rightly so. In their changes it stated that not only were they expanding their use of machine learning algorithms but also allowing for your notes to be seen by human eyes.
The policy wording as been taken down but it said that in order to ensure their machine learning was working properly a small set of employees would have the ability to read your notes. The bonus part was that you could opt-out of the machine learning on your account but not specifically to the human reading your notes part.
The smart people of the Internet made this as public as they could, myself included through Twitter, and Evernote heard us. They have quickly backtracked on their proposed changes and will not be pursuing that part of it. The very public feedback of losing customers was motivation to stop their shenanigans. I admit when I saw this I began to prepare to move out of Evernote to OneNote. I have been a Premium user of Evernote almost since their first year in operation, I love it, I use it and their document camera scanner app is invaluable. But they are not going to freely look at my notes.
Just the suggestion that they were going to go down that path violates their own 3 Laws of Data Protection.
This action by Evernote doesn’t stop here just because they backed down. This should continue the conversation to the chains we are bound to called Terms and Conditions that cloud services can change at their whim and customers have no choice but to accept them. Customer’s only option is to move services, but when you are in the number one service in the market it’s difficult, risky and inconvenient to find an alternative. The big players know this and use it to their advantage. Another disturbing aspect I discovered is Evernote does not have an option to Delete your account, only Deactivate it. What does this mean? What about your data then?
This the trade off with cloud services, there are no standards on things like that for serviceability of the accounts. You may delete your account but what about all the service’s backups and archives. Your data exists is more than one place, how can you be sure your data is gone when you want it to be?
The public outcry was justified and Evernote did the right thing. It still doesn’t change the fact they wanted to do it and thought it was a good idea in the first place. Today they have humans reading your notes for machine learning, tomorrow they are reading it because a government agency or other company asked them to. What then? How would you know how and why your notes are accessed by anyone but yourself?
It’s a slippery slope and our privacy is slipping away unless the people take charge.
From here on out as soon as their is an Evernote alternative that come close to how I use it, I will be moving. OneNote is close, so close, Mac offerings are limited but it’s far cheaper than Evernote’s price that keeps creeping upward.
End of line.
Binary Blogger has spent 20 years in the Information Security space currently providing security solutions and evangelism to clients. From early web application programming, system administration, senior management to enterprise consulting I provide practical security analysis and solutions to help companies and individuals figure out HOW to be secure every day.