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The moderator agreement, located at https://meta.stackexchange.com/legal/moderator-agreement, has the following text at the bottom:

I acknowledge and agree that I am an independent volunteer moderator to [site] and I am not an employee, agent or representative of Stack Exchange Inc., and I have no authority to bind Stack Exchange Inc. in any manner. Stack Exchange Inc. reserves the right to terminate my privileges as a moderator at any time without warning.

Since this paragraph obviously doesn't apply to SE employees who gain diamonds by virtue of their employment, and since the agreement is a legal contract, such employees are thus not bound to that particular agreement.

Given the specific privacy expectations outlined in the agreement, it makes common sense that all moderators should abide by it, no matter how they get their privileges, whether it be via a community process or by gaining employment at SE.

Are employees subject to a similar agreement? Is it part of their employment contract? Or is there another agreement to sign, since we have a lot of staff members who aren't moderators? If there is another agreement, how equivalent is it to the community moderator agreement linked above? If they aren't subject to any such agreement, are they generally expected to abide by it for ethical reasons?

Finally, if there is an agreement, what sanctions can be taken against staff members who violate it? Is it immediate cause for being fired? If not, if their position doesn't require moderator privileges, will they still continue to be non-moderator staff members?

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    related – Journeyman Geek Sep 18 '18 at 0:15
  • In addition - I would likely eat my mod hat if it wasn't part of their standard employment contract – Journeyman Geek Sep 18 '18 at 0:17
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    @JourneymanGeek That post is about user employees merely having access to info; this is about how employees handle personal info. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog Sep 18 '18 at 0:23
  • I said related - not duplicate. Folks concerned over how their PII is handled are likely to be concerned with who handles their PII. – Journeyman Geek Sep 18 '18 at 0:33
  • @SomethingBadHappened A former developer, Brian Nickel, used his staff rights to moderate the Aviation site in his spare time. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog Sep 18 '18 at 0:52
  • @SomethingBadHappened We had a non-mod staff member here comment about how the SE team had very recently tightened up internal policies regarding which staff members get diamonds and which do not. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog Sep 18 '18 at 1:14
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    @Sonic - why do you think SE staff would want to pay details of their contract terms here? As that is really what you are asking for. – Rory Alsop Sep 18 '18 at 9:02
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    @RoryAlsop No, I'm just looking for a basic answer indicating the privacy expectations for SE staff, since they're not bound to the "standard" moderator agreement. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog Sep 18 '18 at 9:06
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    They are bound to greater expectations. Think about contractual obligations where you work. Think about regulations eg GDPR. As employees their behaviour has requirements and penalties for bad behaviours. Mods don't have any real world penalties other than no longer being a mod... – Rory Alsop Sep 18 '18 at 12:51
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    @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog: It's possible for ordinary users (even logged-out users!) to see close votes once a consensus develops. I have trouble seeing any kind of bright line of crucial voter privacy between "1-4 votes, consensus uncertain, conceal everything to prevent vote bias" and "5 votes, show everything for transparency". No one has any reasonable expectation of close-vote privacy in the long term unless they expect their close votes to be disagreed with, and no one should be voting to close a question that they're more than 50% sure won't be closed. – Nathan Tuggy Sep 20 '18 at 7:49
  • @NathanTuggy I deleted my comment above because people were too focused on the situation here, and not on the actual question. While I misstated that mods revealing close votes would violate the mod agreement, I just asked this question out of curiosity. I've been wondering this for a while, but only just now asked this because I got reminded of it. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog Sep 20 '18 at 8:11
  • @RoryAlsop Out of curiosity, why do you think this question is unclear? – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog Sep 20 '18 at 22:56
  • Sonic - because most of the question didn't really make sense to me. Your comments seem to be at odds with the question. – Rory Alsop Sep 21 '18 at 9:08
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    FYI: Even employees need to accept the mod agreement. Their employment agreements take precedence, of course, but at no time is anyone allowed near personally-identifiable information without us having a clear path to (at a minimum) immediately revoke that access should it be abused or misplaced. – Tim Post Nov 1 '18 at 13:49
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Of course we have procedures in place to deal with incidents where personally-identifiable information is breached. That can come in a multitude of forms, from accident to industrial espionage, and I can't possibly tell you how we might deal with something of this nature without very clear parameters and context.

This isn't the kind of question I can answer generally speaking in a manner that would do little more than reinforce common sense - we'll certainly abide by our own privacy policy and have measures in place to assure that.

I can say that employees will never be poked with a sharp stick and anyone acting in good-faith wouldn't be vilified for a mistake, but I can't assert under what conditions someone would be terminated, and to be quite honest, I'm a bit reticent to attempt to blindly address a hypothetical question that you seem to have but are reluctant to share.

If you feel that an employee behaved inappropriately, contact us. If you feel that you need to speak to someone in senior management directly and don't trust that your correspondence will be forwarded, you may write to us, discretely and directly:

stack overflow office addresses

We take these reports seriously. However, I hope you can see the futility in addressing a potential violation of privacy in a public forum; how would you discuss private information publicly while keeping it private?

My answer to this is therefore not much more than what's commonly known: our default reaction is always going to be to support our employees and moderators, but we can't speculate beyond that without concrete parameters, and even with them, I don't think we're willing to commit to a decision outside of a real scenario where we have to weigh real consequences.

I'm sorry if that's not useful, but that's the best I can do with what you've posted.

  • The question is not "how are such situations dealt with". The question was, "is there any agreement akin to the moderator agreement that SE employees are required to sign before they can get moderator diamonds on any site"? Obviously they don't sign the regular agreement since it says that they're not employees. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog Nov 2 '18 at 9:22
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I can't address the specifics of your question about employee contracts or expectations beyond the sensible-sounding speculation and opinion in comments on the question (broadly, that expectations would be the same or greater for employees than community moderators).

I can respond to the real question behind your question as revealed in your (since deleted) comment:

I'm asking this question because a CM recently used their moderator powers to publicly call me out for casting a close vote. Provided you don't cast your vote through the review UI (I didn't), the system keeps close voting choices private until the question actually gets closed. Moderators can see such choices, and a similar disclosure by a community moderator would constitute a violation of the moderator agreement.

I don't think this action violates the moderator agreement at all, or even comes close.

PII is things like email address, location, IP, real name. Stuff that might personally identify a user.

...is information that can be used on its own or with other information to identify, contact, or locate a single person, or to identify an individual in context.

Close votes may not be publicly visible when cast outside review, but that doesn't make them PII.

You should especially not be surprised about your flag/vote being discussed when you brought the topic up publicly in the first place - and disingenuously at that.

Naturally, a moderator will use their judgement when deciding how best to continue a discussion like this e.g. in public chat, private chat, private moderator message, or other means. In this case, it seems unremarkable to me that the moderator concerned chose to continue in public (albeit in your own chat room).

Instead of asking if it "is immediate cause for being fired" you should reflect on your own behaviour in this situation, and strive not to repeat it.


In a comment on this answer, you wrote:

Please do not assume any ulterior motives for asking this question.

It's pretty tough to see it any other way, given the history. At the time, I took your original statement in the Tavern on the Meta ("Who VTC'd as unclear?") at face value (assuming good intentions) and was disappointed to later learn you had lied.

Like it or not, our assessment of others is always somewhat affected by recent experience. It is a little too soon for a complete reset on that.

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    Please do not assume any ulterior motives for asking this question. There's a reason why I kept the scenario outside of this question; if I wanted to ask about it I would have edited it in instead of commenting. I understand that the specific actions the CM took weren't a violation of the "standard" agreement; after that incident, I just got curious over what agreement employees are supposed to abide by, given that the standard moderator agreement doesn't apply to them. I've always been curious about it, but it wasn't until that situation happened that I finally decided to ask about it. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog Sep 20 '18 at 5:18
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    Also, it's worth noting that the CM actually brought up the action in Tavern on the Meta. To avoid excessive drama there, I "invited" them into my chat room to continue the discussion there. I already agreed that I wouldn't lie about my close voting choices and attempt to derail investigations. Also, in case this wasn't clear, I agree that I made a misstatement in saying that disclosing close vote choices would violate the moderator agreement. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog Sep 20 '18 at 5:21

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