“We screwed up, and I want to be really clear about that,” Evernote CEO Chris O’Neill told me back in December after many customers promised to leave the platform. “We let our users down, and we let our company down.”
“It starts with modernizing the policy,” O’Neill says. “We think that modern privacy policies should be straightforward. They should be simpler and shorter and written in user-friendly language both for our end users that use our products as an individual and those that use it in a business context.”
And that’s just what Evernote has done. The new policy is written in much simpler and easy-to-understand language and is housed in a new privacy center on Evernote’s website, making it easy to find.
Consulting The Watchdogs
In making its revisions, O’Neill says, “we spent an inordinate amount of time with privacy experts and watchdogs. We really, really vetted a lot of what we’ve done with them and got their blessing and approval.”
That sort of approval from the outside world is something that the company plans to get for any changes it decides to implement down the line. To help facilitate that, it’s put together a customer advisory board that it plans to meet with quarterly to seek input on “things big and small,” O’Neill says.
While Evernote focused on communicating its policy more clearly, one thing users will see is a new opt-in clause when they decide to take advantage of a new feature. If it requires some level of human training for the machine learning to work, you can opt specifically into sharing your info in conjunction with that one feature. Humans having access to notes is what got Evernote in hot water with users back in December, so it’s being exceedingly specific this time around about who will have access to your notes and when. And it will always do so with your expressed permission, not by default.
The new policy clearly spells out what types of data Evernote might collect about you while you’re using the service, and then explains why it needs that data with examples of how it would be used. It also goes into more detail on how the company might push back against government requests for information and when and how it might share that information.
And those unhappy campers who declared their intention to leave Evernote back in December? O’Neill says that the company “didn’t see material impact” from those threats. The hope is that the new policy will ensure that the company and its users have a mutual understanding of Evernote’s commitment to privacy from now on.
“Our philosophy has never changed,” he says. “We’ve gone through a lot of extra steps to make sure that what we propose is fitting and objectively great. There’s been no change in the types of data we collect–we’ve just simplified the language so people are clear about that.”