Evernote’s new privacy policy allows employees to read your notes

Evernote announced that it will roll out a new privacy policy on January 23, and the changes have users threatening to abandon the service.

The policy changes have to do with machine learning, which Evernote says it is using to “help you get the most out of your Evernote experience.” Evernote wants to let its machine learning algorithms crunch your data, but it doesn’t want to stop there — the company also wants to let some of its employees read your notes so it can ensure that the machine learning is functioning properly.

“The latest update to the Privacy Policy allows some Evernote employees to exercise oversight of machine learning technologies applied to account content,” Evernote said in an announcement of the new privacy policy. “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.”

Evernote claims that only a limited number of employees who have undergone background checks will be able to access user data and that users can encrypt notes they consider sensitive to prevent employees from reading them. But many Evernote users aren’t satisfied with those protections and are threatening to leave the service.

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.

Update 12/16: Evernote has walked back this change to its privacy policy and now says that users will have to opt in to let employees read their notes for the purposes of machine learning. “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,” CEO Chris O’Neill said.