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It is a mess for the user if a moderator merges two accounts if he/she suspects that they are the same person. Especially for those accounts that are created for example using their Gmail, OpenID etc account. If the moderator gets things wrong it can lead to a massive problem.

This doesn't take into account:

  • Possible breaches in the users' privacy. All merged users will gain access to any non-public information provided by the main account, such as real name, email address, and/or OpenID
  • Legal actions and acceptance of responsibility (who is the one to blame and to pay?)
  • Legal conflicts with other jurisdictions for which the T&C of the site may be found out of order or non applicable

I think the safe move is to delete one of the accounts or both but merging accounts will lead to problems if somebody get things wrong.

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What privacy? Almost everything you do, other then vote, is completely public. –  Zoredache May 10 '12 at 0:37
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@Zoredache The full name, email address and openid of the main account are leaked to whoever has the credentials for the merged account. –  Gilles May 10 '12 at 0:40
    
also emails are sent to the wrong user, which also can be used to link to other accounts (Facebook for example). I can go on and on on this but I think people need to think for a secon of all the mess that this creates for a user. –  user983248 May 10 '12 at 0:57
    
did it happen?. –  jmfsg May 10 '12 at 1:00
    
1:30 mins ago ... –  user983248 May 10 '12 at 1:01
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Protip: upvote only posts of users whose email you don't know. –  Uphill Luge May 10 '12 at 6:02
    
@UphillLuge Agreed! I don't have anyone, but if there were any SE members with whom I shared work or home networks, we would simply not ever vote on each other's posts, or we would do so only 'organically'; For instance, we tried figuring something out and failed, so I posted a Q; then my co-worker later figures it out and posts an answer. Then, and only then, I would up vote and accept. That policy would be because we would never want to create even a bare impression in anyone's mind ever that we were sock-puppetting - including our own. –  Andrew's a Unitato May 10 '12 at 14:58
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1 Answer

Yeah... We've been discouraging merging more and more as problems like this have cropped up; at this point it's only supposed to be used when two accounts are almost certainly the same person.

Unfortunately, there are still occasionally instances where this fails. No one has to provide any personally-identifying information to use these sites, so when you get two users from the same address operating on the same questions and voting for each other, they look a lot like... well, the same person.

As the network gets larger, this is becoming less and less useful for handling these scenarios though; in the future we're probably better off just invalidating the votes and letting whoever is behind them sort out their posts.

Full disclosure: I recommended the merge that probably prompted this...

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Who cares for their posts/questions/answers/reputation/points ?The whole thing is the info attached to each account. Thant is the real thing. –  user983248 May 10 '12 at 1:05
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Quite a lot of people care about their posts and reputation. Just look around... Most of the questions here are concerned with posts and reputation. –  Shog9 May 10 '12 at 1:09
    
@user983248 for the site, posts are the real thing, and gaming the system for those points is also a very real thing. While accidental merges are a big problem when they happen, abuse of the system is real and needs to be dealt with. –  Ben Brocka May 10 '12 at 1:09
    
@BenBrocka The whole site can go down if things go wrong for just a few posts or points - Legally speaking –  user983248 May 10 '12 at 1:12
    
@Shog9 Maybe is time to care about users privacy as well –  user983248 May 10 '12 at 1:13
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@user983248 hyperbole tends not to be very persuasive. Shog already said it was something they are concerned about. –  Andrew's a Unitato May 10 '12 at 1:18
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