Is Evernote Selling My Data?

Is Evernote being evil? Or is Meko just really clever? Or is it just a strange coincidence?

Here’s my story.

A couple of weeks ago, my lovely wife brought me home a can of Meko coconut water. It’s really great stuff. Like… seriously. I had a foodgasm.

meko evernote evil

A week later I was in the supermarket and wanted to buy more. But I couldn’t remember what brand it was. Nothing in the coconut water section looked familiar, so I bought one can of two separate brands – neither was Meko. Both tasted AWFUL.

The next day, my lovely wife bought me another can of Meko. This time I snapped a picture of it into Evernote so I’d remember the next time I was doing the shopping.

A couple of days later, I’m in Facebook and I am presented with an ad for the Meko Facebook group.

meko facebook ad

Coincidence? Or did Evernote let Meko know that I snapped a photo of their product?

I brought up this issue this morning on Laurel Papworth’s hangout, and a few of the viewers pointed me to Evernote’s privacy policy.

It states (in part):

Does Evernote Share My Personal Information or Content?
Evernote is not in the business of selling or renting user information, and we only disclose information when:

  • We have your explicit consent to share the information.

  • We need to share your information with service providers who process data on our behalf in order to operate the Service and/or complete your payment transactions; and these providers are subject to strict data protection requirements.

  • We need to share your information with service providers to fulfill your product or service requests, including sales, delivery and support for certain products from the Evernote Market.

  • We need to share your information with resellers of a Premium Service or product in order to ensure accuracy in the payment for such Premium Service or product, the management of your account and the delivery of your purchase and related support services.

  • We believe it is necessary to investigate potential violations of our Terms of Service, to enforce those Terms of Service, or where we believe it is necessary to investigate, prevent or take action regarding illegal activities, suspected fraud or potential threats against persons, property or the systems on which we operate the Service.

  • We determine that the access, preservation or disclosure of information is required or permitted by law to protect the rights, property or personal safety of Evernote and users of the Service, or is required to comply with applicable laws, including compliance with warrants, court orders or other legal process.

  • We do so in connection with the sale or reorganization of all or part of our business, as permitted by applicable law.

So I don’t think they have a policy of sharing the content of my notes with advertisers.

Was this all a coincidence? Or am I Meko’s target audience? Did their Facebook targeting work?

I’m a 43 year-old cigar-smoking father of three. I doubt I’m their target audience. Now, if it was my little sister (okay, she’s 35, but she’s still little IMHO) who does yoga, works for a circus and lives in Byron Bay – sure. She’s the target. Me? Not so much.

I live in Evernote. It’s perhaps my favourite technology brand (or competes for number one with Apple). I’m an (unoffficial) Evernote evangelist and have been since I started using it in 2008. I’ve got ~10,000 notes in it. I’d be very upset and concerned if they are being evil.

Laurel’s opinion seemed to be that I’m just naïve if I don’t think they are selling my data.

What do you think?

9 thoughts on “Is Evernote Selling My Data?

  1. Hi Cameron:

    Evernote is definitely not data-mining the contents in your account for advertising purposes. We aren’t sure how Facebook’s ad servers knew how to show you an ad for that particular brand of coconut water (maybe you did an internet search at some point?), but it’s not from us. We make a firm commitment to our users that your data is yours. Our CEO’s blog post on Evernote’s Three Laws of Data Protection explains our commitments in more detail: https://evernote.com/legal/data-protection.php. And in another section of our Privacy Policy, we talk specifically about how we do not review the contents of your notes for advertising purposes:

    “Does Evernote Access or Review My Notes?
    As a rule, Evernote employees do not monitor or view your personal information or Content stored in the Service, but it may be viewed if we believe our Terms of Service have been violated and confirmation is required, if we need to do so in order to respond to your requests for support, or we otherwise determine that we have an obligation to review it as described in our Terms of Service. Your Notes also may be viewed where necessary to protect the rights, property or personal safety of Evernote and its users, or in order to comply with our legal obligations, such as responding to warrants, court orders or other legal process. We vigilantly protect the privacy of your account contents and, whenever we determine it possible, we provide you with notice if we believe we are compelled to comply with a third party’s request for information about your account. Please visit our Information for Authorities page for more information.

    The Evernote Service utilizes technologies to show you Notes and Content that relate to the specific activities you perform when using Evernote applications. For example, if you turn on “Related Results” in our Web Clipper (it’s on by default for our Business users) or if you have “Related Notes” enabled in your Evernote account (it’s on by default in applications where the feature is offered), Evernote will automatically include Notes you have access to in Evernote and display them with the search engine results in your browser or below the Note you are viewing in your account. The Notes displayed may include Notes from your own account, Notes from accounts you are connected to through Evernote Business, and third party content that you have elected to receive. We believe features like these, which work automatically without any person reviewing your Content, will enhance your experience using the Service.

    In addition, by detecting certain actions you take in your account (such as emailing Content into your account) or specific attributes associated with your Notes (such as whether your Notes contain PDFs or image files, or which application you use to create Notes), we may suggest Evernote Products or Service features to you that we think will help you get the most out of our Service. We do not read or share the Contents of your Notes with anyone for any advertising purposes.”

    http://evernote.com/legal/privacy.php

    This doesn’t solve your mystery of how Facebook knows so much about you, but we hope it comforts you that they aren’t getting that information from us.

    Thanks for being an Evernote supporter!

    //Brian

    1. I note that this response apparently satisfied some, but it has just resulted in me shutting down my own neophyte EverNote account. The idea that employees can more or less arbitrarily access my notes is a complete showstopper. I would not mind so much if my notes were about personal stuff – in general who cares? – but for anything professional this means EverNote is simply off the menu for me.

  2. Thanks for the reply, Brian! Puts my mind at ease. To be clear, I never searched for the product or interacted with it in any way online, apart from uploading the photo into Evernote. So perhaps we can say it’s a case of coincidence.

    1. Facebook is notorious for listening in on your microphone and also taking control of your pictures. It’s very likely that your facebook app on your phone is behind this. It may also be the facebook app on any of your relative’s phones when they were around you. Do a few google searches about this and you will get the idea.

  3. Just thoughts…

    If you used a browser to upload the photo, or access your Evernote account, and you use Chrome or IE or add-ons to your browser, data mining could be taking place. I’ve had many a plug in that “needed” permission to read my content, searches, urls I visit, etc. You’d have to comb every terms of service on every app on your desktop or device used to upload to Evernote and make sure that none of them are allowed to view photos you take or peek into what you put into your browser.

    Also, did you mention on Facebook or a message on Facebook that you were looking for coconut water? Check the permissions on your Facebook app too… or did you search for pages with coconut water?

    1. Hey Criss, thanks for the comments. I didn’t use a browser. I used the EN iPhone app to upload the photo. And no, I didn’t mention anything in Facebook until after I spotted the advertising. And no, I didn’t search for coconut water.

  4. I suspect Evernote is sharing my phone contact list with third parties (specifically, LinkedIn). I am seeing “suggestions” for people only in my address book but whom I’ve never emailed, and have no linked in connections to. I am pretty locked down on my phone and was using App Ops to disable certain permissions on Apps, but the last android update allowed Evernote to access my contacts (it’s the only 3rd party app with access to my contacts– and why does it need that?). Or who knows maybe Google is selling it directly now and has given up all pretense that any of our data is ours.

  5. Cameron, late reply, thanks for not requiring an account:)

    Evernote is one possibility, but there are a few more,
    -Someone looked up the product on a cumputer you/yourwife had run FB on?
    -Your wife mentioned “my husband likes …” on any electronic device to anyone, info sold to or shared with FB, they know who her husband is.
    -Your wife “liked? the product and they thought you would too.
    -Grocery store sell your purchase history to any one paying (is your name on the receipt?)

    Oh them algorithms…

    I used evernote until I realized they were chargingt too much the monthly storage (at the time) and also that I don’t have a choice of asking them not to analyze every single thing I put on their servers. Its too creepy for me, and I don’t know why others are cool with it. Its like having hired help that insists on sleeing in your bedroom.

    When indoubt, they are selling it to other companies, or making in available to Voldemort for a fee, for which you pay with your taxes.

    The glass may be half full, but definately not full all the way:)

  6. Call it a coincidence, however:

    1) I post a note on my home laptop in the Evernote program about how I admire Adelle. Also, I was logged into to Google calender on IE.

    2) I have never watched an Adele video on YouTube before.

    3) I don’t sync Evernote that night.

    4) At work the next day (where I open always Evernote web) I see in my recommended feed on YouTube tons of Adele videos.

    5) I always open Google calender and Evernote in Chrome.

    6) I open IE to use YouTube without signing into the my Google account.

    So, it could be a nothing, Evernote, or Google, but I’m leaning towards Evernote.

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