Evernote’s Three Laws of Data Protection

July 1, 2013
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“It’s all about bucks, kid. The rest is conversation.”

–Michael Douglass as Gordon Gekko, Wall Street (1987)

Sporting more than 60 million users, Evernote is one of the most popular productivity apps out there these days. You may in fact use the app to store audio notes, video, pics, websites, and perform a whole host of other tasks.

“It’s all about bucks, kid. The rest is conversation.”

–Michael Douglass as Gordon Gekko, Wall Street (1987)

Sporting more than 60 million users, Evernote is one of the most popular productivity apps out there these days. You may in fact use the app to store audio notes, video, pics, websites, and perform a whole host of other tasks.

You may not know, however, about the company’s very progressive stance on data protection. Everything at Evernote follows these three basic rules:

  1. Your data is yours.
  2. Your data is protected.
  3. Your data is portable.

In a word, wow.

Beyond Lip Service

Many organizations only pay lip service to data protection and privacy. (I’d put Facebook squarely in that camp, as would many others.) However, Evernote is one of a handful to take these data-related issues so seriously. While the company could easily attempt to monetize its users via Big Data, it chooses not to. Its CEO, Phil Libin, told Charlie Rose as much. Instead, the company opts to build an amazing user experience and convert users to the paid version of the product.

Now, I’ve written before on this site about data portability and how organizations often take a convenient approach to it. Companies like Yahoo! want data to be portable, but not because it’s inherently the right thing to do. I’d argue that Marissa Mayer evangelizes data portability so her company can monetize users and user data for itself. Imagine the money Yahoo! would make if Google users started clicking on Yahoo!-supported keywords and searches (with Google data making those searches more relevant). It’s the classic free-rider problem. Yahoo! would benefit from all of Google’s work, investment, and (above all) data.

But let’s not demonize Yahoo! here. For the same reason, Facebook doesn’t want–or allow–its users to easily export photos, likes, comments, posts, and the like to Google Plus, Twitter, or other social networks. For many if not most organizations and executives, the quote from Gordon Gekko rings as true today as it did 26 years ago.

Simon Says

Of course there’s a middle ground between using Big Data to monetize its users as much as possible (read: Facebook) and not at all (read: Evernote). Hybrid or more moderate strategies exist. Just because you can exploit Big Data doesn’t mean that you must–or even that you should.

Finding a balance is key. The question is, Where do you draw the line?

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What say you?