Dec 15th, 2016

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Yesterday, a change in Evernote’s privacy policy changed to reveal that a “limited number” of Evernote employees can read notes that are stored in the service. The reason behind this is to help their machine learning AI better categorize things, but it left many people feeling spooked about using the service with the new clause in the privacy policy.

Evernote’s CEO Chris O’Neill has dedicated a blog post today to this new privacy policy in order to try and quell fears about Evernote employees’ access to notes stored with the service. O’Neill says that Evernote employees do not view the content of their notes except in limited cases.

Like other internet companies, we must comply with legal requirements such as responding to a warrant, investigating violations of our Terms of Service such as reports of harmful or illegal content, and troubleshooting at the request of users. 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.

This policy has always been in place for Evernote, it’s just that it was specifically highlighted in the privacy policy because the company is attempting to incorporate machine learning into its service so that its users can automate functions that are currently performed manually, such as creating to-do lists or travel itineraries.

O’Neill says this system isn’t perfect and that the machines still need a human to check on them. That’s why some Evernote data scientists have access to your notes and data, in order to develop the technology. The change won’t go live until January 23rd, 2017 and you can control whether or not your data is used for Evernote’s machine learning at any time.

For those who choose to opt-in, your notes may be viewed by Evernote employees to ensure its machine learning algorithms are working properly. The post says employees will have no idea who the notes belong to and they’ll only see the snippet they’re checking. If the machine identifies personal information, it’s supposed to be masked from the employee doing the checks.

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