Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 158 Stack Exchange communities.

What is meta?
Here's how it works:
  1. Any Stack Exchange user can ask a question
  2. The community provides support, votes on ideas, and reports bugs
  3. Your voice helps shape the way Stack Exchange operates

If I have a candid conversation about politics, vent about home or work, make an off-color joke, or say things intended only for channel views and not a wider audience, then I'd like to keep those things private.

I really really really hate the idea of everything I say being indexed and searchable in the morning for my boss and coworkers review.

SO Team, could we have a privacy setting which sets our chat messages to "private" or "non-indexed" or otherwise invisible in history searches?

share|improve this question
Oh, and please don't say "well if you don't want everything you say being archived, then this place isn't for you" --- yes, it is for me. Because I'd like talking to other StackOverflowians, I just don't want Big Brother -- or my boss and future employers -- watching over me while I do it. – Juliet Aug 6 '10 at 22:58
If you are paranoid, don't use your real name. Case closed. – Ladybug Killer Aug 7 '10 at 12:28

I really really really hate the idea of everything I say being indexed and searchable in the morning for my boss and coworkers review.

You must just detest this Internet thing then.

Look, it's nice to think about these public forums or chat rooms as some sort of side-street bar where you and your friends can talk in peace without worrying about what's said...

...but they're not. Even on IRC, unless you're diligent about immediately kicking anyone you don't recognize, there's a decent chance that someone's saving logs to throw back in your face as soon as it suits them.

If you want some privacy then pick a few people and set up a private system somewhere. Now you'll have as much privacy as the biggest blathermouth among your guests wishes you to have.

share|improve this answer
-1: really missed the point. I agree, as a general principle, most anything you do or say will leave a paper trail -- but I'm not talking about a general principle, I'm making a specific feature request for a specific site. And its not an unreasonable request at that. – Juliet Aug 7 '10 at 0:51
@Juliet: unless you're really asking for private rooms (in which case, it's a dup) then yes, it's unreasonable: you can't stop me from lurking around in a channel until I decide to take offense at something you're saying, copying the log out and making a big stink over it. If you think you'll just hush when you see me enter the room, I'll just take Ocassi's advice and show up NewbieSOer1932. You think this is speculative, unlikely? The penalty box on SO exists as a direct result of #stackoverflow chat logs... – Shog9 Aug 7 '10 at 1:01
...point being, you can have some amount of privacy, or you can have public discussion with other SO users, but you can't have both. – Shog9 Aug 7 '10 at 1:02
@Shog9: "you can't stop me from lurking around in a channel until I decide to take offense at something you're saying, copying the log out and making a big stink over it" --- yes, in principle, someone could copy logs if they chose to do so; and yes, in principle, if I was asking for a wholesale solution to keep people from copying logs, then my request would be unreasonable. But since I'm not making that request or anything similar, I'm just asking for a flag on my profile so that I don't show up in chat history, and its not an unreasonable request. – Juliet Aug 7 '10 at 1:20
Think of it this way: if I posted piccies of myself on facebook, I'd prefer to set my privacy settings so that only friends could see them. In principle, one of my friends could copy a piccie and forward it to my boss; we can accept that without saying to ourselves "well I guess there's no point in having that privacy setting anyway, better make everyone's albums public". I can accept that people copy logs for their own purposes, but it would be nice if SO had a privacy feature anyway. I am not in any way, shape, or form asking for whole solution to be invisible on the internet. – Juliet Aug 7 '10 at 1:25
@Juliet: we're not talking about friends though. That would imply private chat rooms, which have already been discussed and shot down elsewhere (for good or bad, it's off-topic here). We're talking about any random SO user with 20+ rep walking in and recording what's said. Reading stuff out of context. Etc. There's nothing theoretical about what I'm talking about here... I gotta just assume you've been lucky on other public chat services so far. Or you don't post anything stupid like your real name and location... – Shog9 Aug 7 '10 at 1:48

Two reasons.

First, the principle of public-by-default has been bedrock for everything we have done, from the start.

We made a mistake with this on Careers, where the CVs were initially private-only, and we had to backpedal and fix that, offering free public CVs to anyone who wants one.

I don't expect us to repeat that mistake anytime soon.

Second, mold tends to grow in dark areas. We believe in the healing power of light, that is, making everything visible so others can see what is going on and decide for themselves. In our experience, people behave in a more civic manner in public, when they know others are looking, than they do in private.

This is also why we will never implement private notifications in chat.

share|improve this answer
Your reply is much appreciated :) I care about my privacy and will not participate in the chat if everything I say is archived for eternity. Would you or another mod please delete my chat history? – Juliet Aug 6 '10 at 23:24

I think this little passage from Jeff's Coding Horror blog post on Stack Overflow sums it up nicely:

There's far too much great programming information trapped in forums, buried in online help, or hidden away in books that nobody buys any more. We'd like to unlock all that. Let's create something that makes it easy to participate, and put it online in a form that is trivially easy to find.

The point of every Stack Exchange site is to gather knowledge and put it on one place for it to be found by others. The chat is part of that. If you don't want what you say to be archived, then no, this is not the place for you. The Chat component is just one of three ways the knowledge of a particular domain is captured - the others are the primary site of questions and answers and the meta discussion about how to run that site (which, in a way, does indeed give insight into the domain).

Also, why are you talking about politics (except for on a political-oriented Stack Exchange) or making off-colored jokes? What you say on a Stack Exchange Chat, IMO, should be suitable for discussion in that SE (on topic - for Stack Overflow, it would be programming chats) and also polite and professional. The topics you mention that cause concern are inappropriate to begin with and shouldn't be an issue.

share|improve this answer
Right now I'm in the SO "Tavern" chatroom for general discussion, and the topics I discuss can and will and are expected to come up every now and then. Additionally, it might happen that we start talking about recipes, or dating, shopping, sharing pictures of our cats, music, whatever. Some people don't mind having these facts broadcast to world, whereas others would rather keep it off the radar -- they want privacy setting simply for the sake of privacy, not simply as means to make dirty jokes. A simple privacy setting is a rational request. – Juliet Aug 6 '10 at 23:18
Right now, there's a "Tavern". But this is just the beta on Meta. I'm expecting that once the chat becomes associated with Stack Overflow, that the more social channels will disappear or be underpopulated if they exist. And if you want to make a channel to talk about things beyond the scope of the Exchange, go for it, but the primary purpose of the chat is to support the Exchange, not for social aspects. – Thomas Owens Aug 6 '10 at 23:29

If you want to have conversations that might not be ideal for an employer to search, why not register a new account, work up a few reputation points, and use it to chat. Maybe with a wink and a nod people can know who you really are. Or you can just enjoy the conversation as a purported newcomer.

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .