I wonder why everybody -- not only SE members, but also the entire internet -- can see almost all profile information, especially:

  • the last log in date and time,
  • the actions, and
  • the favourite questions of an user.

I know Stack Exchange sites are open for everyone to get and provide free information, but why is this also true for almost all personal actions of an user?

  • 3
    It's not true that we can see all profile information; we can't see voting or what you've flagged etc. It's good to see your actions. If you're creating spam we can track it down more easily. Jul 10, 2015 at 11:11
  • 4
    FYI - I assume you are bolding for emphasis, but when you make almost everything bold, you loss that impact. Jul 10, 2015 at 11:14
  • Some info in your profile is private as mentioned there. I don't see why seeing the favorite questions of a user is a problem though.
    – M.A.R.
    Jul 10, 2015 at 11:14
  • @RobertLongson: Thats true, I updated the title and the text :).
    – elegent
    Jul 10, 2015 at 11:19
  • @psubsee2003: You are right! ᔕᖺᘎᕊ changed this already :)
    – elegent
    Jul 10, 2015 at 11:22

3 Answers 3


Almost everything you do on the site will leave a public artifact, what remains is the level of detail that ordinary users can see. This sort of transparent, fully public operation was a key design decision and considered to be critical for a sustained self-governing community.

'Favorites' has been a somewhat misleading term. It basically means "I want to find this easily in the future, and know if more things happen here." People use them more like waypoints than an indication of enamoration. The only valid issue I see with them being public is presenting them as "This user is enamored with the following posts:" when in reality, it might be more like "This user is actively watching the following trainwrecks:"

Showing your 'last seen' time is the simplest means of showing some kind of presence indicator on the site, which is very helpful when someone is debating on staying late in the office to see if you reply to their comment. If you haven't been seen in six hours, well ..

I am not at all opposed to changing that to a less explicit presence mechanic, but every useful one I thought of wouldn't be terribly difficult to reverse and allow folks to pretty much approximate the last time you were seen on the site. I'm open to suggestions that provide less precision, but also makes sure the intent in showing it persists.

  • 3
  • 1
    The Active X ago could be just "Active" and link to their most recent action (e.g. comment, post ect). I don't know if that would cloud the time, but it just makes that info more accurate without being stalkerish maybe.
    – Tim
    Jul 10, 2015 at 13:31
  • 1
    @FishBelowtheIce I had that open when I wrote this :P
    – Tim Post
    Jul 10, 2015 at 13:40
  • @Tim that just results in people saying "Well, how long ago counts as 'active'" since we'd be moving to a less precise sense of presence. I just see people piecing any useful (for presence) information we put there together and coming pretty close to the timestamp we used to show (on SO anyway, probably not on cooking or movies)
    – Tim Post
    Jul 10, 2015 at 13:40

The community is heavily involved in moderating the site, being able to see the actions a user has performed is very useful for that. It allows regular users to see patterns of misbehaviour and notify the diamond moderators. I think some users also use this to follow the posts of specific users.

The last seen date is again somewhat useful, you can see if a user is currently active or if the account is abandoned. It is somewhat of a privacy issue, I agree. Regular users don't really need to see this with the current level of detail.

I don't see any convincing reason to keep the favorites public, this is somewhat unexpected behaviour.


We can't see all your actions.

For example, we can't see:

  • which posts you voted on (and whether it was upvote/downvote/closure)
  • what posts you flag
  • your 'real name'

It's true we can see your 'last seen' time - and there is a feature-request to hide this information.

Your other item 'the favourite questions of a user' - personally I don't see a problem in letting people see that - after all, the question itself is publicly accessible, it just tells people what you find helpful/interesting. Here's a discussion regarding this though.

Anything that could be used to 'track you down' or extremely personal is hidden from the public, and I don't think you need to be very concerned about it.

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