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As a followup to Can an anonymous user opt out of arbitration? and We're examining the implementation of arbitration in the 2018 ToS update, I would like more information as to how the email address in our opt-out will be used.

From the new Terms of Service:

b. Mandatory Arbitration
...
If you don’t want to be bound by the arbitration and class-action waiver provisions in this section, you must notify us in writing within thirty (30) days of the date that you first accept these Public Network Terms (unless a longer period is required by applicable law), and then you must litigate any disputes against us in accordance with the "Assignment and Jurisdiction" section below. Your written notification must be mailed to us at Stack Overflow, Attn: Legal Department, 110 William Street, Floor 28, New York, NY 10038. If you do not notify us in accordance with this paragraph, you agree to be bound by the terms of this section, including, without limitation, the arbitration and class-action waiver provisions, and also including such provisions in any modifications we make to these Public Network Terms after the date of your first acceptance. Such notification must include: (i) your name; (ii) your email address and mailing address; and (iii) a statement that you do not wish to resolve disputes with us through arbitration or waive your ability to participate in a class action.

I would like a clarification as to exactly how this email address will be used:

  • Might it be used for service of legal papers (as we have voluntarily provided it)?

  • Will use it for the same sorts of communications as those shown in the Edit Profile & Settings / Edit Email Settings page including:

    • Features & Announcements
    • Tips & Reminders
    • Research
    • Newsletters


    If so, how can users who don't currently or no longer have an account opt out of such emails?

  • Since the email address (along with my identity and other contact information) is being provided only via physical mail, is Stack Overflow's use of it governed by the privacy policy for use of the Stack Exchange Network?

  • Might it be resold to or shared with advertisers, data brokers or employers? Will it be cross-referenced with email addresses known to advertisers or data brokers?

  • What happens if the address becomes obsolete? Do I need to send another opt-out letter by physical mail to the same address?

  • Since the opt-out letter will have our real-world identity, physical address and contact information, why is an email address required here anyway?

I ask because I have many email addresses which I use for different purposes. The email address I would provide when I expect to receive legal papers sent by people who know my real, biological identity is completely different from the one I would use (and did use) when signing up for an on-line forum like Stack Overflow. It is unlikely to be the address used in my account settings.

Update

According to Electronic opt-out, correcting miscommunication, and additional questions answered about the 2018 ToS update it will be possible to opt out by sending an email with a link to our profile. Given that this second mechanism also requires an valid email address, the question still seems relevant. For instance if I use an address different from the one I have in my Stack Overflow profile, will that additional email get associated with the account and used for all the purposes under Edit Profile & Settings / Edit Email Settings? And what if the email address dies?

  • 2
    In which country would receiving papers by email have any legal value? – nvoigt May 8 '18 at 5:13
  • 2
    @nvoigt - the case to which I linked was in the United States. In RPost Holdings, Inc. et al v. Kagan apparently service of papers by email was held to be sufficient - albeit with some specific circumstances. See law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/texas/txedce/…. In that case the recipient's attorney responded to the email, indicating successful delivery. So what I am wondering is, are we agreeing in advance to receive legal papers at the email address we provide? – dbc May 8 '18 at 5:20
  • @dbc the example sounds not so relevant. Of course if you receive legal notifications by email and acknowledge it you're just stupid. The point of email not being valid is that you can claim you never got it. – Nemo May 10 '18 at 17:12
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If you merely wish to hide the connection between your real-world identity (name, mailing address and an email address) and your Stack Exchange account, then you can send a letter or an email and not give any reference to your account. You don't have to use an email address that is linked to your Stack Exchange account. The terms of service do not require that, and there's a reason for that: this is about a legal agreement between you as a person and Stack Overflow as a company. It is not related to a specific account. If you have multiple accounts, or if you get into a legal dispute which is not related to a particular account, or if you have no account but accepted the terms of service for some other reason such as making an anonymous edit, this legal agreement still applies.

I do however find it very worrisome that you have to use your real-world identity to opt out of arbitration. You can't opt out without revealing your real-world identity to Stack Exchange, Inc. (as a probable site user)!

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