This morning I received a spam email from SE ("The Overflow - issue #1..."). At the bottom it says that "You’re receiving this email because you are subscribed to The Overflow Newsletter from Stack Overflow". This is news to me. Personally I hate spam with a vengeance - it's something of a character flaw, and never sign up to unnecessary nonsense. So I checked the email settings that the email footer linked to, and apparently I've signed up to quite a few things:


It's entirely possible I signed up to the "Inbox" as that directly affects me. But "An email rounding up the best..." is in my mind the worst of the internet, and exactly what I loathe.

I've not received spam from SE before. The last email from SE I have in my system is from April 2016 with questions in a tag I subscribed to - it took just 24 hours before I got fed up with that and switched it off again.

It seems like "The overflow" is a new thing as this is issue 1. And it seems like you think my permission to send junk emails is new as you've sent nothing to me for many years (if ever). Which would imply any permission is recent - but I remember nothing.

My memory is not infullable and maybe in a temporary fit of insanity, or some rush of gratitude over hours of work saved by some answer on SO that I ticked a load of stuff. But it would be an extraordinary thing for me to do - I'm obsessive about not doing so.

I'm an EU citizen, and the email address you sent to is a personal, home address, not related to any other organisation, therefore under GDPR you require active consent from me to send this nonsense. So, can you provide evidence to back up your assertion in the email, such as what I clicked on and when, and to show that I have in fact gone nuts?

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    Related: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/390009/…
    – Turamarth
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 11:00
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    Thanks, that's interesting @Turamarth, I hadn't seen that. It's possible I signed up to "Features & Announcements New products and feature updates, as well as occasional company announcements", although it would be unusual, since SO is a company I respect(ed). I can't see that they can unilaterally expand consent under GDPR to send announcements of new/updated features of the service to be consent to send regular junk mails. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 11:05
  • @StuartWhitehouse are you sure you didn't get "Results are in! The 2019 Annual Developer Survey" email? It was also sent for those who ticked "Features & Announcements" setting on. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 11:42
  • @Shadow when was it sent? I don't remember it (but would likely just have ignored it), and it's not in my email system. Although things I manually flagged as spam only go back 1 month and things I manually deleted 2-3 months I think. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 11:58
  • @StuartWhitehouse it was sent in April. :/ Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 13:01
  • In that case it's possible I just deleted it. My trash does have many deleted mails older than that, but I don't think all. I don't routinely delete emails, but I do delete some useless ones (2 factor temporary codes; "you have a new message from YourBank PLC, log in to your account to view it" kind of thing). I might have signed up for that first, features and announcements option. I don't want to dispute any of that as I can't be at all sure. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 14:32
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    While the optics of this move are weird, it is very possible (but not certain) that these mailings are 100% GDPR-compliant. GDPR does not necessarily require your consent here. These emails may be covered by a legitimate interest. Under Art 6(4) they may use your email address for compatible purposes. I don't see how The Overflow is marketing, and even if it were they might have a good argument for doing this (as long as they can argue that you are a "customer" so that ePrivacy's soft opt-in mechanism applies).
    – amon
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 7:37
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    @amon - however a claim of legitimate interest (which seems doubtful anyway) seems to be contradicted by the email footer which states "you're receiving this email because you are subscribed...". Although not using GDPR terminology as such, that is a consent justification for processing. It also doesn't mention the original option that I may have ticked. re "marketing" - I didn't quite describe this email as marketing and I've edited the one mention of that to "spam" to match the rest. It's a fair point that this email isn't marketing as such Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 9:45

1 Answer 1


"The Overflow" got its own section under Email Settings.

From what I observed (from main/sock accounts) it's being set by default to On when the "Features & Announcements" setting is On:

I do agree the wording of "You’re receiving this email because you are subscribed to The Overflow Newsletter from Stack Overflow." is poor and misleading in such case, and better be changed.

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    The wording was misleading for issue #1. I did the same double take. It will be a self-fulfilling prophecy by the time issue #2 comes out, but it would be nice to see them correct that. I didn't really appreciate the presumption either.
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 11:21
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    @shadow, the issue isn't so much the misleading, as the "it's being set by default to on". If that's the case there's a problem - that is very clearly illegal for anyone in the EU under GDPR. All options used for consent must default to off. If they don't they are voided - as I understand it, it's the same legal position as if the box didn't exist at all. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 11:24
  • @StuartWhitehouse yes I'm 100% sure it's set to default in some cases, since we got the email without ever asking for it directly. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 11:30
  • @Shadow, re "on that specific case they still play a fair game"... I don't entirely follow what has happened with Eric, but if the email was sent due to an account which had since been merged, and the notifications are already off in his current account, and the link in the email just goes 404, doesn't that imply he's stuck receiving these emails forever with no power to disable them? Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 14:28
  • @StuartWhitehouse good point. I'll guide that user how to really unsubscribe. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 14:35

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