Light Reading

Evernote CEO: Govt. Surveillance Will Be 'Solved'

Mitch Wagner

SAN FRANCISCO -- MIT Technology Review Digital Summit -- Evernote CEO Phil Libin got laughed at when he said government surveillance could be a solved problem in the next year or two, because government needs to respond to the people's will.

"I actually don't think the government surveillance problem is going to be a major problem," Libin said. "I think that is solvable in the next year or two, just because we should just decide as a society what we want the government to do, and then the government should do that."

The audience during a Q&A with Libin laughed cynically at this point.

"I know that sounds like a crazy West Coast thing," Libin said, as the laughter continued. "I spent seven years of my life doing work for the government, in government systems, in Boston and in DC, and so I know it sounds less realistic there. But that is actually how it works. I think the problem is we don't have a consensus as to what the government ought to be doing. First we have to establish a consensus."

Business data use represents a greater threat to privacy than government surveillance, Libin said. Ad networks are the vectors most exploitable by malware, hackers, and government spying.

Still, data collection has many highly moral uses. For example, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) can use search patterns to accurately track flu epidemics. "That's great, and there's totally a guy at Google working on that. And there's 10,000 people working on the problem of how to get you to click on more ads," Libin said. The advertising business model for data tracking swamps out other, more beneficial applications.

Advertising has more problems than just security and privacy, Libin said.

"I'm biased because I just don't like advertising in general," Libin said. Even so, he said, the advertising business model doesn't scale to mobile, wearable, or the Internet of things.

"Let's say I'm working on my big desktop computer at home," Libin said. "I have a big monitor, and my average session length on my computer at home is two hours. So if I'm sitting there for two hours with two 30-inch monitors, how many pixels a minute am I willing to allocate to advertising? Maybe a little bit.

"But when I'm on my phone, I'm only using it for two minutes at a time, and my screen is only four inches, how much time and pixels am I willing to give to advertising? Almost none, which is why advertising in mobile is really thorny.

"But then when I move from the phone to my eyes, things are getting beamed directly into my retina, and my active engagement time is a second and a half. How much time am I willing to give to advertising? Really; really none at all."

Evernote Corp. 's business model is that revenue comes from individual and corporate subscriptions. "We make money right now. We have this really old-fashioned business model; we only make money from you when you decide to pay us," Libin quipped. Evernote also sells physical products, such as wallets, briefcases, and notebooks, in conjunction with partners.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to

(7)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Moderator
6/18/2014 | 3:55:55 PM
Re: This, this, this.
@Joe there's always a bonus but it's not always the good kind...
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/16/2014 | 8:34:13 PM
This, this, this.
> Business data use represents a greater threat to privacy than government surveillance

On the whole (though certainly not in every case) this is very true because business data is subject to government surveillance & court orders.  So you have all of the problems of the private sector spying on you -- doing way more than the government would be able to legally do -- PLUS the fact that the government can access this data (as well as hackers and other miscreants via other vulnerabilities).
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/16/2014 | 5:42:58 PM
RE: Evernote CEO: Govt. Surveillance Will Be 'Solved'
@danielcawrey, I'm thinking along your lines as well.

Advertising is their business model and I believe they will find a way to "connect-the-dots" with the transition to devices.  They found a way to commercialize the internet, streaming, etc., I share your view that they will find an effective way to advertise with evolving technology.  This is their lifeblood - so they won't stop short of their goals.
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/16/2014 | 5:09:46 PM
Re: Evernote CEO: Govt. Surveillance Will Be 'Solved'
I think that technology companies will still be able to figure out this issue of advertising on mobile and wearable devices. There's no question to that in my mind.

Companies like Google and Facebok are not desktop companies anymore. They are all about mobile, because they know that is where the eyeballs are going to be. And I think that means they will figure this advertising issue out. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/16/2014 | 2:23:57 PM
RE: Evernote CEO: Govt. Surveillance Will Be 'Solved'
Mitch, interesting!  One wonders where the breakdown is - has the government quit responding or have we quit demanding response?  Maybe both.

At least the Summit should remind us to be vigilant.

Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
6/16/2014 | 2:16:58 PM
Re: Evernote CEO: Govt. Surveillance Will Be 'Solved'
And based on the laughter at Libin's remarks, the audience was skeptical that government is, indeed, responsive by design.
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/16/2014 | 12:59:35 PM
Re: Evernote CEO: Govt. Surveillance Will Be 'Solved'
Mitch, interesting perspective.  It sounds as if he knows the systems and what changes those systems.

I believe he is saying that government, by design, has to respond when there is enough public pressure; and his point of our defining acceptable standards of intrusion is a good one.  It probably is true that if we would make a stand on the public's acceptance of government surveillance, it would be influential in the standards and how far government can go.

His point about advertisers makes sense.  They have a single purpose of creating a need for us to buy for their products and services to make money.  There probably is a greater threat to our personal security from the data we create on the commercial side than we recognize. 

We need to be more aware - it sounds as if this MIT Summit was doing that!
From The Founder
The comms industry is rallying to the cause of open, independent interoperability testing.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Tail-f, Cisco & What the Future Holds

10|9|15   |   8:17   |   (0) comments

Steve Saunders meets with Tail-f's Director of Technology, Carl Moberg, in Stockholm to discuss becoming part of Cisco, ETSI MANO, virtualization and the need to combine science and business in order to create opportunities for service providers.
LRTV Interviews
Broadband Forum Embraces SDN & NFV

10|9|15   |   02:42   |   (0) comments

At Gigabit Europe 2015, Robin Mersh and Kevin Foster from the Broadband Forum explain how the industry body is adapting to meet the SDN, NFV and cloud needs of the access network sector.
LRTV Interviews
Top Tips for FTTH Operators

10|8|15   |   02:26   |   (0) comments

At Gigabit Europe 2015, Ventura Team co-founder Richard Jones talks about some of the key business case considerations for FTTH network operators.
LRTV Interviews
M-net Calls for FTTx Unity

10|8|15   |   03:45   |   (0) comments

At the Gigabit Europe event, Jörn Schoof from M-net, the Munich city network operator, calls for industry collaboration on fiber broadband access rollouts.
LRTV Documentaries
The Business Case Challenge for NFV

10|7|15   |   03:47   |   (0) comments

Virtual CPE is one of the early success stories for network functions virtualization, as service providers are finding flexible, programmable CPE solves a lot of logistics problems and reduces their cost. But even here, Masergy Communications faced a business case challenge, says CTO Tim Naramore.
LRTV Interviews
JT Offers Some Gigabit Lessons

10|7|15   |   4:08   |   (1) comment

Barna Kutvolgyi, managing director, Global Consumer, at JT, the incumbent operator on the island of Jersey, talks about how other service providers can learn from his company's gigabit broadband rollout experiences.
LRTV Interviews
AT&T's Chiosi on the Potential of Open Source

10|6|15   |   06:27   |   (0) comments

AT&T Distinguished Network Architect Margaret T. Chiosi talks to Light Reading's Carol Wilson about the potential for open source technology to liberate communications service providers.
LRTV Interviews
Network Security in a Gigabit World

10|6|15   |   05:52   |   (0) comments

Masergy's James Harrison talks about some of the network security and data center issues network operators need to consider as they expand their broadband services portfolios.
LRTV Documentaries
Telefónica: In Search of Virtual Simplicity

10|5|15   |   07:30   |   (0) comments

Francisco-Javier Ramon Salguero, head of Telefónica's NFV initiative, admits virtualization initially means greater complexity, but with the right abstraction layer, it is possible to create a services-driven network architecture. He explains how Telefónica's current trials and initiatives are aimed at doing that, and what his company and other carriers need to ...
LRTV Interviews
Gigabit Europe Takeaways

10|5|15   |   03:47   |   (0) comments

Participants from the inaugural Gigabit Europe event in Munich share their key takeaways from the conference.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Intel Urges Women to Take Advantage of Their Seat at the Table

10|5|15   |   4:27   |   (1) comment

Have inclusive and constructive conversations, attach a bigger meaning to your work and get involved in the cause, Intel's Monique Hayward advises women in comms.
LRTV Interviews
BT Updates on Plans

10|2|15   |   03:16   |   (2) comments

Peter Bell, CIO at Openreach, the access network division at UK incumbent BT, provides an update on the operator's trials and how Openreach is planning to deploy the broadband technology in its street cabinets.
Upcoming Live Events
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
November 17, 2015, Santa Clara, California
December 1, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 2, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
All Upcoming Live Events
Network appliances have a strong value proposition in today's networks and will continue to do so in the NFV and SDN-enabled networks of tomorrow.
Hot Topics
M&A Speculation Swirls Around Juniper
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 10/6/2015
Cisco's Chambers Rules Out Political Bid
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 10/6/2015
Cord Cutting? 'Fraid so.
Brett Sappington, 10/7/2015
Infinera Fleshes Out Its Metro 100G Story
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 10/7/2015
Cisco Makes 'Martian' Connection
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 10/9/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
With so many new and exciting communications technologies now under development, it's easy to get caught up in the industry's escalating hype cycle. That's why the ...
Last week saw a big day in the 15-year history of Light Reading when Editor-in-Chief Ray Le Maistre and I were invited to interview the Deputy Chairman and Rotating ...
Cats with Phones
"What?! I'm on with Finisar about their stock price tanking" Click Here