Evernote almost out of the hot water

I love Evernote. It's one of the best apps around and it's on my very short list of platforms (actually, it's much more than an app) that I couldn't do without. It's a platform hub that sits at the centre of a lot of my daily workflows. As I mentioned in this post amongst many others.

Just like Stephen Hackett, I was troubled by the emergence of the context feature which Stephen detailed well in his post, On Evernote's new Context feature, and why it's a problem — 512 Pixels

Evernote has responded with a good and pretty open post allaying many of the key concerns particularly, those concerning the privacy of user data. It’s good to read:

Does Evernote share any user data with publishers or other partners?

No. If you click on a Context-suggested article and it opens in an Evernote note or a browser, publishers will see these clicks as web visits, just like they would if you went to their website on your own. Publishers do not see any connections between those views and an individual Evernote user and they never see the content of your notes.

It such a shame that Evernote then goes on to fudge the issue with the following paragraph of what can only be described as ‘lawyer’ or ‘PR’ words. It appears to be deliberately opaque to leave room for the fact that context suppliers are paying to be part of the program.

Questions and Answers About Context - Evernote Blog

How does Evernote make money from Context? Evernote makes money by providing products and features end users are happy to pay for. We think Context is a powerful feature that will help people do their best, most informed work. It’s one of several features that people enjoy when they sign up for Evernote Premium or Evernote Business.

A bit of straight talking would have been so much more refreshing (and more in the typical Evernote style) along the lines of either:

1) “We don’t make any income from content suppliers for the context feature”

Or (as I Suspect is more likely)

2) “We do make some income from content suppliers for the context feature but be assured that we are determined not to turn our users into a product that we are selling to content providers.”

I’m sure Evernote gets why (2) will make many loyal, premium subscribers nervous but I wonder if they understand that being a less than direct with the truth makes the same group even more nervous.

Everyone gets that Evernote needs a sustainable, profitable model. Many would be happy to pay a little more each year to keep the pure utility of the service without any slippage toward the google-fication of the operating model.

Once you become a custodian of people's private data, you get a huge responsibility to be completely transparent about how you are using it. If news organisations are paying for the opportunity to put their links in front of Evernote's premium customers based on the context of private data - Evernote's users deserve to be told this. Clearly and concisely with all the boundraries laid out for how this might evolve.