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Note privacy options? For those who care, how are you dealing with this?


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Given that Evernote's privacy option, Local Notebooks, has been abandoned in the new Evernote (v10) and most likely is never coming back, how are users, who have some notes that they absolutely will not just trust to a company's promise to not read your notes (as if employees have never gone rogue before), planning to move forward?

I've been looking at some of the other note taking apps and it seems most are not implementing true end to end encryption, even though they like to use that phrase. Meaning, they have the ability to decrypt your notes. True E2EE means only the user can decrypt the notes - not the company or anyone else. A primary reason for this is that without access to users' notes contents, features like search and collaboration are not as easily implemented. They are betting that features and convenience are more important to users than security, which is probably true for most users for most of their notes - i.e., even for security-conscious users, probably a large % of their notes are not confidential.

That's why Local Notebooks is such a great feature. You don't need to lock down the, say, the 90% of your notes where hyper confidentiality isn't that important. And the app developers have access to all that non-confidential content to serve up better search results, easier collaboration, etc. But it seems most note apps do not have the equivalent of Local Notebooks, meaning *all* your notes get sync'ed to the cloud, where of course they are potentially vulnerable to hacking by third parties and also access by company employees as the company has the ability to decrypt the notes.

If you know of note apps with either the equivalent of Local Notebooks *or* true E2EE where the company itself cannot decrypt the notes, please let me know. The only ones I'm aware of are Evernote Legacy (local notebooks) and Standard Notes (true E2EE).

After a cursory look around, I'm thinking I might keep EN Legacy for confidential notes, where access from my primary desktop is sufficient for my needs (i.e., I don't need to access these private notes from my phone or other device). And if I understand things correctly, I should be able to use EN Legacy for as long as I use an operating system that it runs on (Windows 10 in my case) and have an EN Legacy install package handy should I switch to another machine or reinstall Windows. So I can use it long after EN officially abandons EN Legacy and stops syncing it.

This would free up the requirements on the note app I use for the majority of my notes, as I wouldn't need the app to have true E2EE, so I'm not limited to an app like Standard Notes, which, while hyper security focused, doesn't have the features of many of the competitors, whether it's EN v10 (in which case I'd run and use EN Legacy in parallel with EN v10) or Notion or Nimbus, etc.

Running EN Legacy alongside another note app isn't ideal, but in lieu of a better solution, that's where I'm at currently. Would love to hear from others for whom maintaining privacy for at least some of their notes is non-negotiable - how are you planning on moving forward?

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18 minutes ago, tavor said:

Given that Evernote's privacy option, Local Notebooks, has been abandoned in the new Evernote (v10) and most likely is never coming back, how are users ...planning to move forward?

Moving sensitive attachment files out of Evernote and replacing with a file link   
The files will be stored in a local folder on my Mac   
The notes themselves will be moved to an online notebook

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6 minutes ago, DTLow said:

Moving sensitive attachment files out of Evernote and replacing with a file link

Yeah, that's a good option for files. And the file link can be to file on web if said file is available on web from some other entity or you host it on your own/leased server, or if you don't need access from multiple devices, can just keep file on local storage device.

But I'm more concerned about the note content itself. I could convert that content to pdf and proceed as above with files, but that's very inconvenient especially for notes that are dynamic.

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54 minutes ago, tavor said:

And if I understand things correctly, I should be able to use EN Legacy for as long as I use an operating system that it runs on (Windows 10 in my case) and have an EN Legacy install package handy should I switch to another machine or reinstall Windows. So I can use it long after EN officially abandons EN Legacy and stops syncing it.

On further thought, I may be wrong about this. I'm thinking of the login requirement when first launching EN Windows. EN could lock out Legacy if they wanted, so it's possible that when they stop syncing Legacy, they put a hard stop on anyone using it even for unsynchronized notes.

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1 hour ago, tavor said:

On further thought, I may be wrong about this. I'm thinking of the login requirement when first launching EN Windows. EN could lock out Legacy if they wanted, so it's possible that when they stop syncing Legacy, they put a hard stop on anyone using it even for unsynchronized notes.

I think direction is dictated by what is in the local notebooks.  I've posted this elsewhere.  In summary

  1. Most of my local notes contain PDFs (7600 of 8100) which don't require a lot of access. 
  2. I'm considering putting all the attachments in a very simple Windows folder structure and use Windows Indexing and File explorer for access. 
  3. For non PDF notes I'm considering printing to PDF and putting that in the folder structure.
  4. I may add tags to the file names.  There's a utility that makes this easy across groups of notes.
  5. It'worked remarkably well in a 1000 note test.  Instantaneous searches, titles and contents.
  6. I would back up to the cloud periodically to a zipped and encrypted file. 
  7. I would probably set a folder structure so I only have to backup a current folder (Years perhaps). 
  8. I would also limit indexed folders to just these.  That process in Windows is a hog but seems to work fine with a limited target. 
  9. I considered putting it all in a VeraCrypt container but I don't think the juice is worth the squeeze on that one.  Haven't eliminated the idea as yet though.

This weekend I'm going to see what you get with the HTML export option.  Though I fear attachments will be in different folders than the base note, if I remember from past dalliances with HTML exports.  Looking for other ideas as well.  You want to put a tin foil hat on try an air gapped machine with Legacy on it.  :ph34r:  Just kidding.

I would just as soon not have to do any of this but it seems clear EN isn't bringing back local notebooks.  :(  Procrastinating on starting though.

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20 minutes ago, CalS said:

I think direction is dictated by what is in the local notebooks.  I've posted this elsewhere.  In summary

  1. Most of my local notes contain PDFs (7600 of 8100) which don't require a lot of access. 
  2. I'm considering putting all the attachments in a very simple Windows folder structure and use Windows Indexing and File explorer for access. 
  3. For non PDF notes I'm considering printing to PDF and putting that in the folder structure.

I'm guessing you aren't planning to modify these non-PDF notes on a regular or possibly even infrequent basis? The pdf route and using Windows search is an interesting idea for static notes. Not so much for notes that you want to be able to update. It also means a second place to search (unless you know with some certainty which information bucket to search), though any solution that clings to EN Legacy for Local Notebooks and uses v10 or other note app for everything else has that same drawback.

If I found a fairly fully featured E2EE note app, I'd be willing to move all my notes there and avoid the splitting up into multiple external brains. Maybe if Standard Notes upped their game considerably in the coming months . . . 

20 minutes ago, CalS said:

I would just as soon not have to do any of this but it seems clear EN isn't bringing back local notebooks.  :(  

100% agreed, I'd much rather stick with Evernote, but the writing on the wall with respect to local notebooks is clear enough that I'm not holding out hope on that front. Also not holding out any hope on real E2E encryption after listening to an interview Ian Small did recently - his vision of search requires access to users' note contents.

So even though it will be some months before the bridge has to be crossed, that day is inevitable, so like you, I'm starting to think about how to prepare.

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3 minutes ago, tavor said:

I'm guessing you aren't planning to modify these non-PDF notes on a regular or possibly even infrequent basis? The pdf route and using Windows search is an interesting idea for static notes. Not so much for notes that you want to be able to update.

Most of what I have in local notebooks is historical and static.  It includes tax and statement type stuff, part of my paperless use case.  Anything I need access to remotely is encrypted in a synced notebook.  Which may be another bridge to cross.  Though some of that stuff is in encrypted files on DropBox or OneDrive with links from EN.

9 minutes ago, tavor said:

So even though it will be some months before the bridge has to be crossed, that day is inevitable, so like you, I'm starting to think about how to prepare.

If you hit some magical epiphany let me know.

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3 hours ago, tavor said:

I could convert that content to pdf and proceed as above with files, but that's very inconvenient especially for notes that are dynamic.

Evernote has an html export option or I can convert to Word/Pages format.

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4 hours ago, CalS said:

This weekend I'm going to see what you get with the HTML export option.  Though I fear attachments will be in different folders than the base note, if I remember from past dalliances with HTML exports.

Agreed, it's better if attachments stay with the base note

I use the html export on a Mac for my backups and the format works well for me
For each note, I get a note-title.html file,
                            and a note-title.resources folder (if there's attachments)

I'm hoping to see the same when html option gets implemented in Version 10   

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On 12/15/2020 at 7:15 PM, tavor said:

So even though it will be some months before the bridge has to be crossed, that day is inevitable, so like you, I'm starting to think about how to prepare.

Had a thought this morning for local notebook content going if it doesn't make it back to EN.  How about:

  1. Mass saving attachments in groups (probably same tag set as the grouping factor) into whatever Windows folder structure.
  2. Mass creating shortcuts for the resultant files.
  3. Mass dragging those shortcuts into the import folder.
  4. Apply the same tags to the new notes.
  5. Change notes without attachments to Word or something so that they would be editable.

This would provide search access via tags or note title within EN with linked access to a local file on your PC.  Still would have to do content searches using File Explorer if something within the PDF was needed.  This might work well for me as most of my Local Notebook searches are tag based and then pick from the mostly short list that appears.  And a link in the note makes it easy. 

Just thought of this so it may have some holes.  I like the idea of keeping the bulk of my searches in one place with easy access to the PDF.  Opinion?

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54 minutes ago, CalS said:

Had a thought this morning for local notebook content going if it doesn't make it back to EN.  How about:

  1. Mass saving attachments in groups (probably same tag set as the grouping factor) into whatever Windows folder structure.
  2. Mass creating shortcuts for the resultant files.
  3. Mass dragging those shortcuts into the import folder.
  4. Apply the same tags to the new notes.
  5. Change notes without attachments to Word or something so that they would be editable.

This would provide search access via tags or note title within EN with linked access to a local file on your PC.  Still would have to do content searches using File Explorer if something within the PDF was needed.  This might work well for me as most of my Local Notebook searches are tag based and then pick from the mostly short list that appears.  And a link in the note makes it easy. 

Just thought of this so it may have some holes.  I like the idea of keeping the bulk of my searches in one place with easy access to the PDF.  Opinion?

1-4 is a great idea, provided your attachments are named the same as the note title you want. So for at least the subset of local notes for which this is true, I think this sequence would be very efficient. 

While I like the idea of offloading large files out of Evernote (even apart from the privacy issue), the one thing I worry about is whether the folder structure will be preserved. Meaning, I have to remember not to touch those folders. And on any new pc, I have to set those folders up so they have the same paths as they did on old pc. Can it be done? Yes. Over time, is this potentially fragile? Yes. But I suppose this will always be the case when you have a collection of pointers to files somewhere else.

What were you thinking in terms of making step 5 efficient? I'm not familiar with html, so there might be an easier way, but if you export those notes as enex, then import the enex file into Joplin as markdown, then export the notes as markdown files. You'd end up with a folder full of markdown files - easy to search, easy to navigate with a markdown editor like Typora. Should work well if the notes don't go crazy with html formatting (fonts, colors, text size) and use simple formatting like bold, underline, bullets, etc. as that translates well into markdown.

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16 minutes ago, tavor said:

the one thing I worry about is whether the folder structure will be preserved

My plan is to export to a flat folder structure (a single folder)
The shortcuts (file links) are imported into Evernote where the organization structure is maintained

>>What were you thinking in terms of making step 5 efficient? I'm not familiar with html, so there might be an easier way, but if you export those notes as enex ...

My plan is to export in html format (editable in MS Word)

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1 hour ago, tavor said:

provided your attachments are named the same as the note title you want.

My standard unless I oops one.

1 hour ago, tavor said:

While I like the idea of offloading large files out of Evernote (even apart from the privacy issue), the one thing I worry about is whether the folder structure will be preserved. Meaning, I have to remember not to touch those folders. And on any new pc, I have to set those folders up so they have the same paths as they did on old pc. Can it be done? Yes. Over time, is this potentially fragile? Yes. But I suppose this will always be the case when you have a collection of pointers to files somewhere else.

I think I would use a master folder with years as subfolders.  Do encrypted backups by year on some cycle, more frequently for current year. I use a 2 TB USB SSD and this would be on it.   New PC wouldn't be an issue with that set up.  It's where all my OneDrive stuff (Microsoft 365 user) and Backupery sits . 

1 hour ago, tavor said:

What were you thinking in terms of making step 5 efficient? I'm not familiar with html, so there might be an easier way, but if you export those notes as enex, then import the enex file into Joplin as markdown, then export the notes as markdown files. You'd end up with a folder full of markdown files - easy to search, easy to navigate with a markdown editor like Typora. Should work well if the notes don't go crazy with html formatting (fonts, colors, text size) and use simple formatting like bold, underline, bullets, etc. as that translates well into markdown.

Not too concerned about efficiency.  I'm not sure how many Local notes I have that I edit, if any.  In any case, I'm not much for Markdown or HTML, so KISS for me is just push the text notes to PDF or Word.  Can search them from that perspective.  Only have 500 of those and maybe a deeper dive says I can just dump some of them.  Use case thing I suppose.  Thanks for the feedback.

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Easy issue on a Mac:

There is DEVONThink, which by design is a local install. On each data base (which is a notebook in EN) one can decide to use one of several cloud services to enable syncing over devices, or keep it local. Fully searchable, AI-supported, web clipper, tags etc.

And there is Apple Notes, which has a device-only option as well. Here the note base is split between on-device and iCloud-synced content. Fully searchable as well, no clipper (works through share), no tags, but a lot of nice other functions not found in other note taking solutions.

DT is a one time payment (not cheap), AN comes courtesy of Apple with each new device. Both have an import function to move EN content over.

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I did look at Boxcryptor but didn’t like their subscription price. I ended up using a free open source cross platform software called Cryptomator. Well, it’s free for desktop, a small one time payment for mobile app, and I did send them a donation. It’s been rock solid in the several years that I’ve been using it. It’s available on Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS and Android, and I did use it on all of these platforms except Mac.

There are a few drawbacks with this approach.  First - for obvious reasons - the encrypted files are not being indexed. So on the mobile, I have to rely on an organized folder structure to find what I am looking for. On the desktop, I am using a standalone indexing program (DocFetcher) that is saved inside encrypted folder, so the index is encrypted and inaccessible without mounting Cryptomator first. Second, on iOS I can’t edit any files directly from within Cryptomator, I have to export them for editing then re-import back. This is more of an iOS limitation and would be the same for any service that doesn’t have built in editing tools. Third, and this is specific to Cryptomator, I don’t think the mobile version will work without interned access (the desktop versions work with local data and sync is handled by whatever service you place your container into).

So in a nutshell, it’s great for file storage, and great for editing on the desktop. Not so great for doing much editing on mobile.

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On 12/15/2020 at 9:00 PM, CalS said:

I think direction is dictated by what is in the local notebooks.  I've posted this elsewhere.  In summary

  1. Most of my local notes contain PDFs (7600 of 8100) which don't require a lot of access. 
  2. I'm considering putting all the attachments in a very simple Windows folder structure and use Windows Indexing and File explorer for access. 
  3. For non PDF notes I'm considering printing to PDF and putting that in the folder structure.
  4. I may add tags to the file names.  There's a utility that makes this easy across groups of notes.
  5. It'worked remarkably well in a 1000 note test.  Instantaneous searches, titles and contents.
  6. I would back up to the cloud periodically to a zipped and encrypted file. 
  7. I would probably set a folder structure so I only have to backup a current folder (Years perhaps). 
  8. I would also limit indexed folders to just these.  That process in Windows is a hog but seems to work fine with a limited target. 
  9. I considered putting it all in a VeraCrypt container but I don't think the juice is worth the squeeze on that one.  Haven't eliminated the idea as yet though.

This weekend I'm going to see what you get with the HTML export option.  Though I fear attachments will be in different folders than the base note, if I remember from past dalliances with HTML exports.  Looking for other ideas as well.  You want to put a tin foil hat on try an air gapped machine with Legacy on it.  :ph34r:  Just kidding.

I would just as soon not have to do any of this but it seems clear EN isn't bringing back local notebooks.  :(  Procrastinating on starting though.

This is precisely what I did with all my data a few years ago. First, moved from EN to ON, then after a while decided that I didn’t really need a wrapper around my data, and moved or all inside a folder structure. Worked great, so far.

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11 minutes ago, Wanderling Reborn said:

I did look at Boxcryptor but didn’t like their subscription price. I ended up using a free open source cross platform software called Cryptomator. Well, it’s free for desktop, a small one time payment for mobile app, and I did send them a donation. It’s been rock solid in the several years that I’ve been using it. It’s available on Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS and Android, and I did use it on all of these platforms except Mac.

There are a few drawbacks with this approach.  First - for obvious reasons - the encrypted files are not being indexed. So on the mobile, I have to rely on an organized folder structure to find what I am looking for. On the desktop, I am using a standalone indexing program (DocFetcher) that is saved inside encrypted folder, so the index is encrypted and inaccessible without mounting Cryptomator first. Second, on iOS I can’t edit any files directly from within Cryptomator, I have to export them for editing then re-import back. This is more of an iOS limitation and would be the same for any service that doesn’t have built in editing tools. Third, and this is specific to Cryptomator, I don’t think the mobile version will work without interned access (the desktop versions work with local data and sync is handled by whatever service you place your container into).

So in a nutshell, it’s great for file storage, and great for editing on the desktop. Not so great for doing much editing on mobile.

I would use VeraCrypt if I wanted to put this Local notebook file structure on OneDrive. Process is you create a “volume” in their parlance to contain the folder(s).  Mount the volume as a logical drive and access via that drive, m: for example.  When you dismount the volume the cloud sync occurs.  Downsides are having to mount the drive and being sure index is enabled after the mount and not before.  And no mobile access.  Not biggies for my use case, I only use this data on my desktops.  At this point I think it may be easier to just encrypt backups of the folders on some schedule. FWIW. 

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18 minutes ago, CalS said:

I would use VeraCrypt if I wanted to put this Local notebook file structure on OneDrive. Process is you create a “volume” in their parlance to contain the folder(s).  Mount the volume as a logical drive and access via that drive, m: for example.  When you dismount the volume the cloud sync occurs.  Downsides are having to mount the drive and being sure index is enabled after the mount and not before.  And no mobile access.  Not biggies for my use case, I only use this data on my desktops.  At this point I think it may be easier to just encrypt backups of the folders on some schedule. FWIW. 

I've used TruCrypt for many years (the predecessor to VeraCrypt). Cryptomator works in the same way, except that instead of a single dynamic volume, it creates a folder with multiple subfolders. The lack of mobile access was the main drawback. Otherwise, it's the same functionality.

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10 minutes ago, Wanderling Reborn said:

I've used TruCrypt for many years (the predecessor to VeraCrypt). Cryptomator works in the same way, except that instead of a single dynamic volume, it creates a folder with multiple subfolders. The lack of mobile access was the main drawback. Otherwise, it's the same functionality.

Good to know thanks. 

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I am preparing for not using V10.  I am using the legacy version of EN now and realize I will not be allowed to use local notebooks in  the future. My problem has always been “How can I view my local docs when I am not in front of my computer?” I am an iPhone freak and insist that I must be able to access all my data on that device.  Period!  After years of trying different approaches, I have come to this procedure.  I use Cryptomator.  I can view my docs with complete ease and security. On the iPhone I click the app and face recognition allows me in.  At home it is just a virtual drive Y:/Evernote_input.  The name might imply that it is an import folder, which it is.

When I invoke EN at the pc it loads the latest into a local notebook. It works just dandy.  I try to keep as much data as I can in the cloud. 


 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Wow! Reading this topic does not make me feel good about using EN. Are you guys really that concerned with EN security? I keep my taxes and other super sensitive (banking or SS#) data in an encrypted vault in 1Password and just know that's where it is. Should I be concerned with other data being in EN?

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1 hour ago, silentquest said:

Wow! Reading this topic does not make me feel good about using EN. Are you guys really that concerned with EN security? I keep my taxes and other super sensitive (banking or SS#) data in an encrypted vault in 1Password and just know that's where it is. Should I be concerned with other data being in EN?

If you only keep data in EN that you don't care if their computers are reading and you trust their security (despite the fact that much, much larger corporations have been breached, including recently a major cybersecurity firm), then no, you shouldn't be concerned. If you have data that you don't want anyone else to potentially be able to read, then that data should probably be kept elsewhere. I have lots of notes in synced notebooks in EN. But as I'm on EN v6, I also make use of Local Notebooks to keep other notes completely private (these never go to the cloud). Eventually v6  goes away and I'll have to move those notes elsewhere, likely a note app that uses zero knowledge encryption (meaning no one except me, not even the note app company, can decrypt the notes).

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Should I think of it in terms of what I would throw in the trash? If I wouldn't mind throwing a document or paper in the trash it can go into EN. If I have a document that I would shred first that shouldn't go into EN? Really calls into question the usefulness of the app. Why use it if only non important data can go in there? To the hacker question. I assume by your concern that our data is not encrypted at rest? so if someone did hack the system, they would have non encrypted access to our data?

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2 minutes ago, silentquest said:

Should I think of it in terms of what I would throw in the trash? If I wouldn't mind throwing a document or paper in the trash it can go into EN. If I have a document that I would shred first that shouldn't go into EN? Really calls into question the usefulness of the app. Why use it if only non important data can go in there? 

That's really an individual choice. What you shred might be docs that others would just throw in their personal trash, while still others would throw in a public trash can. And what you throw in the trash might be docs some would shred. Everyone has their own comfort level around data privacy.

Why do people use Google or Facebook - these companies provide free services because users are the product and their data and usage are aggressively data mined. Apparently billions of people are cool with that, at least with respect to the data they put into those services. So again, it really comes down to your comfort level.

3 minutes ago, silentquest said:

To the hacker question. I assume by your concern that our data is not encrypted at rest? so if someone did hack the system, they would have non encrypted access to our data?

I'm guessing the data on EN's cloud (which is hosted by Google) is encrypted both in transit and at rest in the cloud (someone PLEASE correct me if I'm mistaken! I would be shocked if they didn't implement this level of security). The issue for some (in particular those who use Local Notebooks) is that EN holds the decryption key, so EN can *and does* decrypt your data. With respect to hacker risk, hackers almost never succeed in brute force decryption (so long as reasonably good encryption is used), what they do is find the decryption key and since EN stores the decryption keys for every user, that is what hackers would target.

The attractiveness of zero knowledge encryption, which Evernote and many other note apps do NOT offer, is that *only* you can decrypt your notes because only you hold the decryption key.

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Really torn between using apple notes or EN which has so much more functionality. My perception maybe wrongly is that EN security is not as good because Apple does not have a business model of mining my data or sharing it and their privacy policies are fairly stringent. 

Thank you so much for your replies. I look to you users with thousands of notes and years of history for a level of comfort. When I read all the hoops you guys are going through on your own to protect data it made me pause.

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EN does not have a data mining business as well. There are no hints that data in your account was ever shared (except by yourself) or used to target ads on you. This is even true for Basic accounts - normally you are the product, if you don’t pay. But not here.

Everything else is pure speculation, or IMHO bad mouthing for whatever reason.

It is another question whether to encrypt ones data in addition to the security measures of the account. If you decide to do it, there is no need to use EN, because the server based services (OCR, search etc.) will not work. For these cases, any cloud will do, combined with a vault that only allows access to the data on your own device.

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1 hour ago, PinkElephant said:

EN does not have a data mining business as well. There are no hints that data in your account was ever shared (except by yourself) or used to target ads on you. This is even true for Basic accounts - normally you are the product, if you don’t pay. But not here.

Everything else is pure speculation, or IMHO bad mouthing for whatever reason.

To be clear, I never said EN is sharing user data with other parties. I have no evidence to suggest that they are. For sure, they are reading your data.

1 hour ago, PinkElephant said:

It is another question whether to encrypt ones data in addition to the security measures of the account. If you decide to do it, there is no need to use EN, because the server based services (OCR, search etc.) will not work. For these cases, any cloud will do, combined with a vault that only allows access to the data on your own device.

Server-based services will not work, but that doesn't mean there is no use for EN. After all, Evernote has offered Local Notebooks for many years, and still does in v6, and I find storing note data in a note app more convenient and much easier to search, access and edit than maintaining a folder full of notes myself. And that all happens without EN being able to read my notes.

Similarly, there are a few note apps that do use zero knowledge encryption (e.g., Joplin), and that app offers many features that EN does (and some that EN does not), and manages to perform well as a note app without the devs behind the app or the cloud service that the data is stored on ever having the ability to read users' notes. So any suggestion that note apps require access to user data to function is false (not saying you are suggesting that, but certainly people could read your comment that way, IMHO).

Note app users do have choices here. If they are willing to give up privacy over all* the notes they store in a note app, then EN v10 once it reaches approximate feature parity with v6 would be an great choice, and there are plenty of others as well. In exchange you get server-based services that may be of significant value. But for users who wish to maintain privacy of their notes, there are note app options, and you need not be relegated to writing notes in Notepad and dumping them in a folder.

* I think once EN phases out v6, there will be no cross-platform note apps that offer local-only note options; except perhaps DevonThink and the paid version of OneNote? You would know more about that than I would.

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