When a user requests deletion on a Q&A site, the resulting process will delete their profile page and all associated content, and subsequently anonymize all of their posts and comments (except for negatively voted stuff which is deleted). This allows the content of questions and answers to remain for future readers who have the same problem to find it, while properly dissociating it from the original author.
What we don't properly handle at the moment is handling chat content. Chat content, to make sure people haven't forgotten, is generally completely public and even indexed by search engines - it's essentially just as accessible as the rest of the content of our sites. Chat is a slightly different kind of content from posts, though, in that it is very back-and-forth and conversational. It is much closer to comments.
How do you think we should handle requests for the removal of chat content? There are two cases to consider:
- A user requests removal of all of their chat content. Do we just anonymize it all, do we delete every message posted by the user, or something in between or different altogether?
- A user requests deletion of only a single site's Q&A account (and not other sites). Do we take action on all their contributions to chat rooms associated directly to that site, and if so, as with the first concern, what kind of action should be taken?
We had a short discussion on this internally and here were some of the salient points brought up.
- The current behavior for deleting a chat user causes all of that user's chat messages to be deleted instantly.
- Except for SO/MSO, remember that a chat user is independent from each site account. Deleting a site account does not directly affect the chat user in any way besides possibly breaking the current association.
- If a user flags his or her own message in chat and requests its removal, we oblige it and delete that individual post. Chat content doesn't have as high a necessity for preservation as Q&A.
- That said, when we delete a user on a site, comments are only anonymized, they are not deleted. In a consistency fashion, it would make sense to carry the same philosophy and simply bulk anonymize chat content.
- No matter what is done, transcripts will be wonked. Anonymization or deletion, things may become weird to follow because of missing messages or because of nonmatching names. While it's at least reasonable to delete someone's posts upon their request, asking for all traces of your existence to be wiped from others' posts borders on insanity.
Since this has a lot to do with what the end-user expects and needs with regards to the removal of chat content (either through dissociation, deletion, or other means), then it seems to make sense to ask, indeed, what does the end-user expect and need? What do you feel would be the proper procedures with regards to handling requests for removing a chat user and his or her content?