Evernote Backtracks On Privacy Policy Changes After User Outcry

Image courtesy of DocChewbacca

Popular note-taking and general reminder app Evernote had big plans for 2017. In January, it was going to start feeding all your personal content to an algorithm in order to improve internal machine learning. But those plans allowed for human employees to peek over the robot’s shoulder to see your stuff, which users objected to loudly enough that now those plans are on hold.

As we explained yesterday, the proposed policy change was part of the company’s move toward improving their machine learning. Notes would be fed to the all-powerful algorithm to make it smarter about the ways humans tell themselves things, more or less.

Feeding your personal notes to robots is one thing, but that same proposal also would have allowed actual human employees access to some content as required, to make the software work better.

The original policy included an opt-out mechanism — but that means users would have been opted-in by default and unless selecting otherwise.

Users — at least those users who like keeping their data private — were upset with the change. CEO Chris O’Neill, trying to quell concerns, said yesterday that the policy was “communicated poorly,” but that didn’t go over great with users either. So now the company is backing away from the changes entirely, and taking a break to come up with something better.

The planned update for Jan. 23 is now tabled, the company announced in a new blog post.

“Instead, in the coming months we will be revising our existing Privacy Policy to address our customers’ concerns, reinforce that their data remains private by default, and confirm the trust they have placed in Evernote is well founded.”

The company will still be working on new machine learning processes, it says, but no employees will be reading content as a part of that process unless users first opt-in.

“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,” said O’Neill.