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Private chat rooms are solely used for moderation purposes, this is a hard rule by Stack Exchange. In most cases the information in such private rooms should not be made public, they often contain private information about users which moderators are forbidden to reveal by the moderator agreement. Apart from PII, there are often discussions about suspensions or user misbehaviour which should not be discussed in public.

There are several ways that private chat messages could be exposed:

  • a moderator changes the room access to public
  • a moderator moves messages to a public chat room
  • a non-moderator is granted access to a private room
  • a link to a message from a private room is posted in another public room and one-boxed

What I propose is to prevent a room that was private from being made public and to disable the ability to move messages from private rooms, or restrict it so that it is only possible to other private rooms. The ability to request access to private rooms should be removed entirely, and messages from private rooms should not be one-boxed in public rooms.

The first two cases are actions that simply shouldn't happen. If a room doesn't contain any sensitive information, it probably shouldn't have been private in the first place. And moving chat messages out of the moderator-only room is strictly forbidden anyway.

The third case has certain uses, so this should still be possible. But I'd remove the ability to request access to private rooms. There is no real reason to do this, anyone that has a reason to be in a private room should be explicitly invited by a moderator or SE employee.

The migration of chat messages out of a private room has happened in the past. I'm not aware of any case where a private room was made public accidentally, so this might be a theoretical concern and not much of an issue in practice. Still, I feel a bit uneasy that there are only two clicks that separate a large amount of private information from being made public.

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    Private chat rooms are solely used for moderation purposes -- or other cases where the same strict privacy rules ought to apply (I've used private rooms when conversing with non-moderators about non-moderation issues that were still sensitive). – Flimzy Oct 14 '14 at 19:45
  • +1, in fact, I even accidentally oneboxed a thing from TL in public chat on my first or second day as a mod (luckily it was a very trivial and unimportant one not containing any sensitive information)! – Doorknob Oct 15 '14 at 3:27
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    Seems reasonable to me. Wonder why it's not gained more attention? – James Mar 18 '15 at 20:56
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    @Flimzy As long as a private room's owners also have invite powers, not just mods/employees, then I think the rest of this proposal makes sense for non-moderation private rooms too. – Ixrec May 24 '15 at 13:13
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messages from private rooms should not be one-boxed in public rooms.

You have a point for rooms like TL, where everything said is de-facto private and there's an awful lot of red tape to get permission to publish something.

That said, I can think of real reasons, good reasons, to make something that was once private public. For example, in my site-specific moderator room, it's not that hard to get permission from the other folks to make something public if need be. Please don't take oneboxing away just because it might be misused. If a moderator is intent on exposing private info, you aren't going to stop them.

That said, I would be in favor of making it difficult to onebox something from a private room. I'm thinking something like this:

https://chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/xxxxxxxx#xxxxxxxx

Wouldn't onebox. That would keep me from accidently pasting and sending when I thought I had something else in my clipboard. But if I want to onebox it, I could do this:

!https://chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/xxxxxxxx#xxxxxxxx

Which is the same as the current syntax to force image oneboxing if the link doesn't have a .png, .jpg, etc. extension.

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    How often is it useful to you to be able to onebox that exact chat message, as opposed to posting a new message? Half the time (on my sites) you can't just pick one message out of the middle of a discussion anyway; there's too much context. – Monica Cellio Sep 24 '15 at 16:44

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