Today I received a pretty standard email from Quora, the Q&A site where I have a user account:
I clicked through (something I presume they believe is not required for one to be bound by their terms, based on their language in the second paragraph) and found the following, among other things:
You agree to alternative dispute resolution. You agree to attempt initially to resolve matters cooperatively with us and, if that fails, to use individual arbitration, except in limited situations.
IMPORTANT ARBITRATION NOTICE: IF YOU ARE IN THE UNITED STATES OR CANADA, YOU AGREE THAT DISPUTES BETWEEN YOU AND QUORA WILL BE RESOLVED BY BINDING, INDIVIDUAL ARBITRATION AND YOU WAIVE YOUR RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN A CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT OR CLASS-WIDE ARBITRATION. WE EXPLAIN SOME EXCEPTIONS AND HOW YOU CAN OPT OUT OF ARBITRATION BELOW IN SECTION 10.
Before I begin any commentary here, this is entirely a lay opinion: I am not a lawyer, and I am not your lawyer.
The point of this post is not some legal analysis, simply the common sense observation that in our society, simply putting some copy up on my webpage that basically says “if you use my website, you are agreeing to not sue me” is Not How Any Of This Works.
A contract is a meeting of the minds. This is decidedly not.
Saying that anything I do “constitutes acceptance” short of explicitly and unambiguously agreeing to your contract and terms is foolish and disrespectful. At the very least, it’s shady. I sure hope it’s unenforceable, as well.
It is absolutely insane to believe that I can be forced to be bound by terms that I have potentially never even read and not signed or explicitly approved. If that is what our society has devolved into permitting, then some serious reforms are needed.
Shame on you, Quora.
Jeffrey Paul is a hacker and security researcher living in Berlin and the founder of EEQJ, a consulting and research organization.