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? Aug 27, 2015 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, 2015 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, 2015 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, 2015 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, 2015 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, 2015 at 20:23
  • You can always just use generic avatars that would be hard to tie to a single person.
    – Joe W
    Aug 27, 2015 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, 2015 at 20:56
  • can you provide a link to the "anonymous" feature? I've to admit that I've never heard about it. Aug 28, 2015 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). Aug 28, 2015 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. Aug 28, 2015 at 10:07

2 Answers 2

  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)


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.

  • "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. Aug 28, 2015 at 18:01
  • Ah, could be. I think we do still use gravatar for unregistered profiles. Either way, though, by design.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Aug 28, 2015 at 18:06
  • Yup, never doubted the by-designness of this one. :) Aug 28, 2015 at 19:49