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What should I do if a user posts sensitive information as part of a question or answer?

I posted an answer on SO yesterday, realized immediately that I included some personal information in it and deleted the answer. I answered the question once again later, masking that information.

I understand from these two discussions that deleted answers remain on the site forever:

Why are deleted answers never purged from the system?
Are answers ever deleted permanently?

I have flagged the post saying "I have unintentionally posted the answer with my own host name and I am trying to delete it."

This flag was deemed helpful, but the answer was not deleted.

  1. When there was no apparent action was taken, why was the flag marked "helpful"?
  2. Also, aside from the fact that users with 10k+ rep can see the deleted answers, what sense does it make to keep two similar answers, one of which is slightly inappropriate/incorrect?
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marked as duplicate by casperOne May 10 '12 at 13:24

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

    
I also wanted to know a little more elaborately why it was designed that way. –  Nanda Nov 16 '11 at 3:07
    
My above comment was in response to a user's question "What does #2 have to do with the rest of the question?" –  Nanda Nov 16 '11 at 3:08
    
Related answer to a slightly different question: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/109840/… –  Flexo Nov 16 '11 at 8:25
    
Essentially a duplicate of I need to remove a question with sensitive data and Is it possible to delete something fully on SE?. Also very close to Questions with proprietary or confidential information, which is the oldest and best-answered, but not quite as "exact" a duplicate. –  Pops Nov 16 '11 at 16:29
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2 Answers

up vote 16 down vote accepted

While the questions you linked explain that in general no content is ever truly deleted, there are two very useful lessons you can learn from this experience.

  1. If you regret posting information in a question or answer and you added the sensitive information less than five minutes ago (i.e. the grace period), then don't delete the post, edit it. Edits within five minutes of each other are combined and so there will be no record of the information you removed.

  2. If it is after the five minute grace period, then edit it out anyway, even if the post it already deleted. The only users who can see the post at all are 10k users, and to see the sensitive information they would have to go poking around in the revision history.

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Email team@stackoverflow.com; they (the devs) are the only people who can truly erase information from all users.

When there was no apparent action was taken, why was the flag marked as helpful?

It wasn't invalid, there was just nothing that the mods could do about it.

Also, aside from the fact that users with 10k+ rep can see the deleted answers, what sense does it make to keep two similar answers, one of which is slightly inappropriate/incorrect?

Not much sense, but most of the time in these situations, users edit the original post rather than deleting the original and making a new answer. I'm not sure that adequately answers your question, but I'm not exactly sure what you're trying to ask here.

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