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There is a very big probability that the owner of a gravatar for an email address is also the owner of that email address that is associated with SO account.

So if a user wants to recover an account for an email that he can no longer access but still has access to the gravatar account the issue could be verified in a few steps:

  1. User completes a form, and an administrator gives a random hash number.
  2. User goes to gravatar and changes the avatar with an image with that hash number.
  3. Administrator verifies hash number in the icon of lost SO account.

Is this a feasible idea?

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How often is that going to happen though? – Martijn Pieters Sep 10 '12 at 15:19
But how serious is it when it does? – Chris Gerken Sep 10 '12 at 15:21
@MartijnPieters This does happen periodically. I wouldn't say frequently, but regularly. – Adam Lear Sep 10 '12 at 15:25
@MartijnPieters It can happen if you make your acount with the work email, Google based and you login with it and when you change job you no longer have access to it, after you leave gravatar account is still yours though, or you can loose you email account any other way. – Eduard Florinescu Sep 10 '12 at 15:28
@AnnaLear: What, both the lost access and the pre-existing Gravatar account? Interesting. – Martijn Pieters Sep 10 '12 at 15:30
@MartijnPieters The many ways that users can lose track of their accounts/logins never ceases to amaze me. hehe – Andrew Barber Sep 10 '12 at 15:31
@MartijnPieters Since user avatars are powered by Gravatar, many folks have pre-existing Gravatar accounts. – Adam Lear Sep 10 '12 at 15:31
The user should set the right avatar that matches a random hash. That is pretty like trying to guess my email from its hash. – kiamlaluno Sep 10 '12 at 16:56
up vote 13 down vote accepted

So, at first I had this big answer written up about all the situations this doesn't help in. Y'know, people who didn't set an email, people who never registered with Gravatar, people who forgot their Gravatar credentials because most email-access-losing situations are 2+ months time from initial registration which is ample time to forget, etc. Basically, that this isn't a terrible idea that needs shooting down, just that it is a very specialized bullet.

(Also was going to note that the whole hash thing is excessive and unnecessary, it does nothing towards confirming ownership that us just generating an image from a random hash and telling them to use the image won't also do).

But as I wrote this up, I realized that the larger issue is that this is confirmation through an unaffiliated third-party service. Seeing as the whole point of the process is ensuring that only the right people get access to the right accounts, entrusting a portion of that process to a service and company to whom we have no control or vision into, reeks of very poor processing on our part.

Imagine I put a colorful metaphor here about entrusting private, personal data access to an unassociated outsider that didn't sound as stupid as the bank-trusting-pawnshop one I originally came up with.

It looks pretty shady, honestly, is the issue.

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I would have asked if a secondary email is a good feature request, when I just saw you can in fact in profile "my logins" add multiple logins to it. So a better system is in place just that people may not know it. I think I might explore more from now on. – Eduard Florinescu Sep 10 '12 at 16:15
@Eduard If there's one thing I've found myself countlessly suggesting to people in these situations, it is "Add a second email that is a personal email which you won't lose access to". – Grace Note Sep 10 '12 at 16:16
Just did that thanks and hope did not waste too much of your time for nothing. – Eduard Florinescu Sep 10 '12 at 16:21
@Eduard No time wasted at all. – Grace Note Sep 10 '12 at 16:57

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