This feature request is inspired by the question on Programmers.SE on whether it is appropriate to ask an interview candidate for their Stack Overflow user.
Stack Overflow is a site aimed at professional programmers, and it is used by some employers and some employees to examine or showcase the candidates abilities. I don't see any problem with that, but there is one aspect I'm a bit concerned about. Certain SE sites are far more private than the professional sites like SO. Anyone that participates in Christianity, Judaism, Islam or Biblical Hermeneutics is likely giving out a significant amount of information about their personal belief or world view to anyone who can connect the user name to the actual person. Another example would be controversial topics on Skeptics or Politics; not everyone would like to give their employer access to that kind of information.
The fundamental problem is that the SE platform does not allow for any separation inside one account. Of course one could create separate accounts for private and professional topics, but that requires a significant amount of clairvoyance and a rather annoying user experience juggling separate browsers to log into different accounts at once. An additional problem is that SE has automatic user merge features that can be triggered by logging into two accounts in the same session. I'm not sure how they work exactly, but I suspect that having your two accounts accidentally merged is a real danger if you are not careful.
There should be a mechanism to hide the connection between SE accounts, without having to use separate OpenIDs. For example, if I would like to use my SO account in job applications, I should be able to separate it from all my other accounts. The separation would only be for the publicly accessible part, moderators could still be allowed to see the connection between accounts. And behind the scenes it would just work as it is now, just without any links between the accounts.
The aspects that would need to be changed that I can think of are
- the accounts tab in the user profile, that shouldn't show any connections for separated profiles
- copying the user profile to other sites should not work for separated profiles
- the network profile should not show the connections between separated profiles
- Area 51 should also not show the profile connections
This separation would not have to be bulletproof, but it should prevent users googling a specific person to make connections the user does not want to make public.