When I delete notes from Notes.app, I expect them to be deleted. However, it's clear that iCloud is storing lots of old, deleted, confidential information, and I don't know how to get rid of it.

I can access the Notes.app database on my Mac (10.12), dump the contents, and then inspect the SQL dump with an editor:

$ cd ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.Notes/Data/Library/Notes
$ sqlite3 NotesV6.storedata
SQLite version 3.16.0 2016-11-04 19:09:39
Enter ".help" for usage hints.
sqlite> .output /tmp/dump.sql
sqlite> .dump
sqlite> .exit

Sure enough, the SQL dump has lots of sensitive notes:

INSERT INTO "ZNOTEBODY" VALUES(472,15,2,271,13,'<html><head></head><body>secret notes<div><br></div><div>[REDACTED]</div></body></html>');

It appears that these notes have a reference to a parent folder that no longer exists.

If I try to blank out these notes, they come back with the next iCloud sync:

sqlite> update znotebody set zhtmlstring = '' where z_pk = 472;

If I sign out of iCloud, the notes disappear, but they reappear in the database when I sign back in.

How can I delete these notes permanently?

  • Are they visible in the web interface? I know it might pain you to see them but if you're on a secure computer you can usually delete things there that apps often have issues syncing. – bmike Aug 30 '18 at 2:13
  • Good idea. I checked icloud.com but the hidden notes aren't there. – a paid nerd Aug 31 '18 at 22:30

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