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This question is in regards to a situation in Colorado in the US. I began receiving emails from a website distributing community information. The emails did not have an unsubscribe link so I sent them an email asking to be removed from their listing. They told me I had to create an account and change my preferences to not receive emails. I informed them that I did not authorize them to have my information and they told me my HOA signed me up. As a technical person I then asked them a bunch of questions regarding the data and how it was transmitted to them. They told me that the HOA creates the accounts manually. This seemed very wrong to me so I contacted the HOA and they told me they only created the accounts using publicly available information. I did not want to get into a fight with my HOA until I understood the possible ramifications of what they had done. Does this break any laws in how they created these accounts without my permission?

edit.. I received a list of fields that they use to create the account. Those fields are Name, Address, Phone Number and Email.

I guess my hangup with this is not that I was receiving the emails but that they created the account without my permission even if the data was mostly publicly available.

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  • Does this include specifically the HOA's own information (e.g. agendas for upcoming meetings, minutes of past meetings, rules and regulations, site maps, etc), where they happen to be using a 3rd party service?
    – user662852
    Sep 17 '20 at 22:19
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Colorado HOAs are required to make many kinds of documents available to HOA members. The Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (CCIOA) includes the following language in section 38-33.3-209.4. Public disclosures required

It is the intent of this section to allow the association the widest possible latitude in methods and means of disclosure, while requiring that the information be readily available at no cost to unit owners at their convenience. Disclosure shall be accomplished by one of the following means: posting on an internet web page with accompanying notice of the web address via first-class mail or e-mail; the maintenance of a literature table or binder at the association’s principal place of business; or mail or personal delivery. The cost of such distribution shall be accounted for as a common expense liability.

If the distribution includes information the HOA is bound to share to you, and this service is at no cost to you, it would appear on the surface of this law that the HOA is afforded the "widest possible latitude in methods and means" of disclosure, and that they have exactly performed "posting on an internet web page with accompanying notice of the web address via ... e-mail"

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There is no law, federal or Colorado, which requires a person to obtain permission before using a person's email address. For certain kinds of emails, there are restriction which include the requirement for a visible unsubscribe option: this is from the CAN-SPAM Act. However, the regulations apply to email whose primary purpose is commercial advertising or product promotion (technically called "commercial electronic mail message"). Excluded are "relationship" and "transactional" emails – e.g. notifications from your bank or dentist, or HOA. Colorado law is no stricter.

There could be a contractual issue regarding the host service and the HOA. Some services prohibit creating multiple accounts under "false" names etc. because each person who joins the service has to agree to abide by the TOS, and if A bypasses proper setting-up of an account on service C, and force-joins B to C, then B has not actually agreed to the contract in question, and A has probably violated the TOS for the service. But the ISP may be fairly hands-off and would not prohibit seeding a database with this information, waiting for you to log in (the next step, I assume, is that it will send a verification email). I know a university that does this (without asking), which they can do because the emails and accounts are about a "relationship", and not commercial promotion.

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  • Please see my edit. It was not the fact that I was receiving emails but that they created an account for me with multiple pieces of data.
    – SDH
    Sep 18 '20 at 0:19

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