This question was asked, which is identical to this problem from an online exam, the (Indian) Zonal Computing Olympiad 2013. This exam is one of the preliminary rounds which leads to the selection of the team used to represent India at the International Olympiad in Informatics 2013. I am one of the people involved in the olympiad activities in India. The question was asked on stackoverflow while the exam was in progress. The exam requires students to submit solution code in C or C++. In the comments of an answer posted, the OP is asking for code.

This is quite a strong indication that the OP is likely to be one of the examinees. Naturally, we would like to know the identity of the person asking the question, if he/she is amongst the examinees. Can SO help us? I understand that there are privacy issues here, and revealing the IP address might not be feasible. However, how about the city (based on the IP address), or which browser the OP used to post, or any other details you could tell us?


4 Answers 4


I'm one of the Stack Overflow community elected moderators.

I'm sorry, we can't reveal any information that is not public regarding the user's account. You could contact Stack Exchange directly to make a formal request, but I strongly suspect that you'll receive the same answer.

However, as the ownership of the content itself is now questionable, I have deleted the question pending a review by Stack Exchange as an interim measure. It is still visible to users with 10,000 or more reputation, but will not be displayed in search results or to the majority of our users. If this is, in fact a huge coincidence .. well it's easy to reverse.

At this point, that's basically all that the community moderation team can do.

  • 5
    There's no way it's a coincidence. The OP was kind allowing that it might be an option. Nov 11, 2012 at 10:55
  • Yes, I realise that revealing any non-public information would not be right as far as privacy goes. Thanks for your help!
    – Prateek
    Nov 11, 2012 at 13:05

No. That's not appropriate.

I understand where you're coming from. We get a lot of questions that smell like cheating, to a lesser or greater extent. For homework, exams, interviews (in real-time!), or competitions, like yours. It's unpleasant, and I for one wish they'd go away.

But it'd have a chilling effect to make personally-identifiable information available on demand. It's one thing for governments, with subpoenas, based in laws broken. But individuals? No. That makes policemen of the owners of the site, with unpleasant consequences.

Tighten up the parameters around your competition instead. I see you've also shamed the user - that's another option, taken by many professors when they see their students cheating using SO.


Giving out any private data about the user that the user hasn't decided to share themselves publicly would be a violation of the privacy policy of SE. Moderators have to agree to the "Moderator Agreement" which explicitly prohibits sharing that kind of information with third parties.

You might also want to look at the privacy policy of Stack Exchange, which states:

We will tell you what we’re collecting, what we’re doing with it, and when we might share it with others. (Almost never, unless you ask us to.)

You'll have to come up with other ways to prevent cheating. As far as I know from similar events, they often include supervised tests in the second round to weed out people that didn't solve the first round on their own.


SO published the MD5 hash of the email of a poster, a2c42f71e57a01e626092ee377dcebb1 in his case. If you posses a list of emails of participants, you can match the hash against that list.

Gravatar uses the hex representation of the MD5 hash of the lower case email address.

But since people can have multiple email addresses, and SO doesn't validate email addresses, that might very well fail. SO not validating also implies that you can use somebody else's email address, leading to a false accusation.

  • 5
    Stack Overflow didn't publish anything. It's gravatar that makes this email hash available.
    – Lix
    Nov 11, 2012 at 13:11
  • 7
    @Lix It's SO that publishes the hash. Gravatar only supplies the image. You find the hashes both in the data-dump and in SO's html markup. Nov 11, 2012 at 13:22
  • 1
    Looks to me that gravater supplies the path to the image. The hash is part of the path... But yea.. I can see how this could be interpreted differently...
    – Lix
    Nov 11, 2012 at 13:24
  • 3
    As an online discussion about cheating and algorithms grows longer, the probability of someone mentioning md5 approaches one.
    – user50049
    Nov 11, 2012 at 15:25

You must log in to answer this question.

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