When one creates a post anonymously on a StackExchange site that allows it and supplies their e-mail address, the site leaks the Gravatar associated with given e-mail.


I believe this is a minor privacy violation. To me it would make more sense if the site used random Gravatar.

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    Hm. For an "unregistered" user, SO doesn't have the email. And a "registered" user isn't really anonymous anymore, at most he's pseudonymous. Naturally, you can always change your avatar... As an aside, you know MSO is not Meta Stack Exchange? – Deduplicator Aug 27 '15 at 20:12
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    If you are going to be posting on a site anonymously can't you just change the avatar to a default one for the site before you post? – Joe W Aug 27 '15 at 20:13
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    It makes sense once you know this, but if you don't and you happen to register the anonymous account with your primary e-mail (that is said to be never shown in the tooltip), choosing other Gravatar means you'll need to sacrifice other sites. – rr- Aug 27 '15 at 20:15
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    @Deduplicator I didn't know how to pronounce "pseudonymous." But according to google it's /so͞oˈdänəməs/. Sue donumus. Great word. – ryanyuyu Aug 27 '15 at 20:15
  • @rr- and gravatars use hashes of emails. So reversing a gravatar image into an actual email is probably pretty hard. – ryanyuyu Aug 27 '15 at 20:17
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    Rather than being concerned about the e-mail, I'm concerned about the avatar itself. It's easy to reverse search for images. Although this might be minor thing for SO, I believe that for example workplace and academia SE have plenty of posters that would be better off if they remained anonymous. – rr- Aug 27 '15 at 20:23
  • You can always just use generic avatars that would be hard to tie to a single person. – Joe W Aug 27 '15 at 20:52
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    Yep, but the thing is that once you post using this temporary account, you can't change your e-mail (unless you register fully, merge your accounts if applicable and edit primary e-mail - all of which takes time). – rr- Aug 27 '15 at 20:56
  • can you provide a link to the "anonymous" feature? I've to admit that I've never heard about it. – BatteryBackupUnit Aug 28 '15 at 9:48
  • @BatteryBackupUnit: On most Stack Exchange sites, you can ask questions without logging in; try opening e.g. this link in a Private / Incognito window to see how it works. On SO (and meta.SO/SE) this is disabled, but you can still answer questions without an account (again, just log out and visit any question page). – Ilmari Karonen Aug 28 '15 at 10:01
  • @IlmariKaronen thank you! Is there some page where this feature is advertised? Because from my (current) point of view it seems like this is a measure to make it easy for users to contribute. It's not a feature "sold" as "hey you can post anonymously". Depending on point of view this is a bug (or privacy violation) or a feature request. Feature request should be debated whether it makes sense to have this feature or not. – BatteryBackupUnit Aug 28 '15 at 10:07
  1. Guest account aka Unregistered account is not anonymous, and it doesn't try to claim anywhere it's going to be anonymous, I just double checked:

  2. When someone create a Gravatar profile and adding picture, he/she should be aware it's going to be associated with the provided email in great many sites, without the sites stating in advance "we're going to show your Gravatar" - it should be obvious.

So, can't see any problem here. If one is fanatic about privacy, he/she should not have Gravatar in the first place. (Since it's a known privacy risk)

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This is literally what Gravatar is for.

Having said that, we are using anonymized identicons by default. Users can change back to gravatar during account creation or upload another image.

I don't know if that's what happened here since there's no link to the user, but I'm going to say "yes" since I've been doing a lot of work on login lately and created a small boatload of test users without seeing any avatar issues.

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  • "there's no link to the user" - the user is the OP here, as far as I understand he/she visited while being logged out and just put their email address as an unregistered account. – Shadow 10 Years Wizard Aug 28 '15 at 18:01
  • Ah, could be. I think we do still use gravatar for unregistered profiles. Either way, though, by design. – Adam Lear Aug 28 '15 at 18:06
  • Yup, never doubted the by-designness of this one. :) – Shadow 10 Years Wizard Aug 28 '15 at 19:49