In all sites it happens that worthy members remove their account.

I want to draw your attention to the fact that the greyed ID of a departed member is not-clickable and one cannot trace and read other valuable posts by same author.

I am sure that it is technically possible to make a profile anonymous and yet make it accessible: all other data can be removed, but the list of questions and answers can surely be made accessible.

Have you ever thought about that? Is there any obstacle in principle or in practice to prevent this improvement?

This will require lots of development efforts, and personally I don't think we really need this...- Shadow Wizard

That is not what I meant, not negative accounts. Almost nobody knows about this query, and, I, for one, managed to make it work for the number you suggested here, but failed to make it work for other SE sites.

What I mean is much simpler and you do not have to make any effort at all: the profile is already there and I am sure they don't destroy it, so do not hide it to general public. Just hide all personal data and leave the summary with questions and answers and make it accessible clicking the user-number at every post. Did I make myself clear now?

If it is not clear let's make an example:

tomorrow I remove my account, right? this question will display at bottom: user309600. You click on it and you get to my profile:

  • the about me will be empty,
  • member for 23 days will disappear, and so will last seen and visited and badges etc.
  • you will be able to choose only between 'questions' and 'answer' and,
  • if you wish you can read my other question are the voters of comment recorded, or
  • my only answer.

What is the problem?

  • 1
    "you do not have to make any effort at all" is a baseless assumption. You are not SE developer. You can't possibly know what it takes to implement what you suggest. Dec 9, 2015 at 12:00
  • @ShadowWizard, thanks for your contributions, let's wait to see what Oded or other SE developers have to say
    – user96370
    Dec 9, 2015 at 13:06

4 Answers 4


the profile is already there and I am sure they don't destroy it

You start out with a flawed assumption there. We actually do hard-delete user profiles. This would not be a trivial change.


I see what you mean, having a special type of account that will list the posts, but won't gain any reputation or badges as result of upvotes. Kind of like the Community account. Technically, it might be possible, and such account will have negative ID which will be the negative form of the deleted user original ID, e.g. https://meta.stackexchange.com/users/-259867

This might require lots of development efforts, and personally I don't think we really need this since we can easily find the posts using Data Explorer, specifically this query. (Try it with the above number)

You can also fork the query and extract more details about each post.

  • If you are reading an answer in a site, it is much better if you can click on the poster, get to a profile and choose another one in succession.
    – user271304
    Dec 9, 2015 at 12:44
  • @user96370 no idea what you mean. And no idea why you chose same display name as OP here. You two are the same person? Dec 9, 2015 at 12:46
  • I mean: suppose you are at MathSE, read a good answer,click on its author (even if he has been removed) and you can read a few more answers without leaving that site
    – user271304
    Dec 9, 2015 at 12:55
  • @user96370 well, like I said it would be "nice to have", but just not worth the efforts of developing it. Dec 9, 2015 at 12:59
  • Worth noting too that it's easy to use that query on sites other than Meta.SE (without forking) by replacing the part of the data explorer URL that says meta.stackexchange with (e.g.) rpg or chemistry. (Ideally there would be a UI element to do that for you, of course…) Dec 9, 2015 at 18:47
  • @SevenSidedDie no need to manually change the URL, we have "Switch sites" control in the bottom, below the "Run Query" button. Problem is, that same user got a different ID on different sites. Dec 9, 2015 at 18:49
  • @ShadowWizard Oh, that's useful! I have always twitched toward the big sign on the right that says what site you're querying on, found it to be/remembered it is static, and then given up. I failed to UI apparently! Dec 9, 2015 at 18:50

Imagine the data-mining possibilities. For example, somebody creates an account on The Workplace and asks questions about dealing with his crappy management, followed by questions about job-hunting, and along the way he answers some questions about dealing with discrimination or harassment or creepy bosses. Maybe he links to that question he asked over on Law that's relevant. He then realizes that, hey, he's revealing rather a lot about himself and anybody who looks through his profile will be able to figure out where he works, what he's saying about them, and who he is. If he hasn't actually found that new job yet and gotten out, that could be less than ideal.

(Job woes not troubling enough? Consider religion questions of the "wrong" type from someone who can be traced to living in an oppressive regime. I have seen a case like this on the network.)

He's not allowed to delete those posts (for the most part). He could request disassociation for every single one, which creates work for SE (mods can't do that), but he decides to just delete his account and get the disassociation for free.

Now you're bringing that back, after he's long gone and doesn't know that the rules have changed.

This type of concern shouldn't come up often, and I'm not part of the tinfoil-hat brigade, but SE needs to take issues like this seriously -- while the number of cases is very small, it's not zero. They promised a user that he could disassociate posts, that promise was implemented through account deletion, and that can't be undone now. (Yes, you might be able to get the information from the data dumps or scraper sites, but SE never promised to protect people from that.)

We could talk about changing the rules going forward, including updating the terms of service and probably adding some warnings to the account-deletion process. But all those guys who are already gone? They need to stay gone.

Yes it's annoying; I sometimes come across great posts by deleted users and want to find out what else they wrote. Or I know of a specific high-quality user whose posts I want to see, but he deleted and now I can't. (Even moderators can't!) That's annoying, but Stack Exchange is at its core about building content, not about specific users, so I'll just have to keep looking for good content in other ways.

  • 1
    I still can't see how this would be a change to anonymization at all. All this question proposes is an ability to search for questions from a specific user ID even if that user was deleted, something that supposedly can already be done with SEDE anyway, as ShadowWizard has shown. I fail to see all those privacy issues these answers are based on and you might want to point them out further. For that matter enabling the ID for user:XXX searches would already be a big win and I can't see how this worsens anonymity beyond what is already theoretically possible. Dec 9, 2015 at 16:12
  • As far as I know, SEDE isn't covered by Stack Exchange's terms of service. And as I said, yes a determined investigator can figure this stuff out, but I think the feature proposed here on an SE site runs afoul of the TOS for past deletions. Dec 9, 2015 at 16:16
  • "SEDE isn't covered by Stack Exchange's terms of service" - Granted, that'd certainly be a point. Dec 9, 2015 at 16:18
  • @MonicaCellio sorry, was an idea to address the concerns about privacy while allowing to link questions and answers but I'm unsure how to express it properly at end.
    – Tensibai
    Dec 9, 2015 at 16:23
  • Second try: As the user name is still present on the posts, one idea could be creating a random username, link all posts of deleted user (from @Shadowwizard query) to this new user, and update the posts OwnerDisplayName to the random username. Doing it by site this break the cross-site relation between posts. This guarantee the wish of the user who has deleted his profile while allowing to still get an easy access to posts from the same author (now anonymous). (If it's still unclear, I give up as I won't be able to do better :p)
    – Tensibai
    Dec 9, 2015 at 16:31
  • 1
    @Tensibai that's clearer, thanks. For all practical purposes the "userXXX" number is already random; if I don't note it before deletion I'm not going to know that Tensibai=user287976 on MSE. (And that number is already different on each site.) The problem I'm describing arises from being able to correlate the posts; it doesn't matter what "name" is attached to them. When a post is actually disassociated that "userXXX" becomes "anon", so you can't tell which "anon" posts are from the same person. Dec 9, 2015 at 16:36

If the user chooses to disassociate the post from their account, it should not show up in a public profile. An "anonymous" profile should not be created for such a user because if they disassociate multiple posts, it'd be relatively simple to figure out which "anonymous" profile was associated with which public profile.

A deleted profile should be inaccessible to the public. It's gone. The user wishes to be removed from the community and has asked SE to remove them. Once that occurs, it shouldn't return as a zombie profile.

  • 3
    Request here is only for a deleted account, not single posts that have been manually disassociated. And as I proved in my answer, posts from such accounts are easily and publicly accessible anyway from the Data Explorer, so in theory this won't really change anything. Dec 9, 2015 at 13:52

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