None of your data is private, Evernote reminds us
(CNN Money) — In case you needed another reminder that there’s no such thing as true privacy online … here it is.
Note-taking app Evernote said this week that some of its employees will be able to access users’ notes.
“While our computer systems do a pretty good job, sometimes a limited amount of human review is simply unavoidable in order to make sure everything is working exactly as it should,” according to the updated policy.
But the update also called attention to the fact that some Evernote employees actually already have access to user notes for a variety of reasons, including “troubleshooting purposes or to maintain and improve the service.”
While users can opt-out of enabling machine learning to “improve” content, users can’t opt-out of employees looking at their notes for those other reasons. “We keep the list of Evernote employees who have access to user data as small as possible,” the company said, but it didn’t expand on how small that group was.
If you hate the thought of strangers poking around in your notes and to do lists, well, too bad.
“If you wish, you also can decide to export your data and leave the Evernote service,” wrote Evernote.
The company, founded in 2007, has raised $290 million in funding and was valued at more than $1 billion in 2012. In 2015, it suffered two rounds of layoffs, closed three of its offices, and its CEO and cofounder stepped down. But last week, the company opened a new engineering office in San Diego and said that it has hired 35 people to its engineering staff in preparation for “multiple product launches in 2017.”
Evernote did not immediately respond to CNNMoney’s request for comment.
It’s unclear whether the policy update announcement will lead to a mass exodus of users.
Business Insider’s Steve Kovach tweeted that he was deleting everything he’d stored in the service immediately. “I keep a lot of sensitive stuff in Evernote, including interviews with anonymous sources. This is bad,” he said in a separate tweet.
Buzzfeed SF bureau chief Mat Honan tweeted: “the sound of 100 reporters scrambling at once for an Evernote replacement”
Evernote is hardly the only tech firm in the spotlight over privacy, data collection, and employee surveillance. A new Uber update lets the company record a person’s whereabouts for five minutes after a trip has ended. (Users can opt out, but they’ll have to manually enter the starting address in order to use Uber.)
A lawsuit from a former Uber employee alleges that the company allowed employees’ broad access to customer data and that employees used that to track ex-boyfriends and celebrities. Uber denied those charges.
CEO Chris O’Neil did release a letter on the company’s website giving some clarification.
“In enforcing these laws, Evernote employees do not view the content of user notes except in very limited cases… 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,” says O’Neil.
“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.”
Explained O’Neil when referring to what the company meant when they said select employees would be able to have access to users’ notes.