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When I come across a post that could be improved, I usually try to leave a comment explaining how. If the post is particularly poor, sometimes I also downvote at the same time.

Could the fact that I did both actions at about the same time reveal that I was the downvoter?

Does the system contain any protections or mitigations to prevent timing information from allowing people to draw inferences about who might have downvoted?

Example scenarios where it might be possible for the poster to draw inferences about who might have downvoted their post:

  • Scenario #1: If the poster has their post open when I downvote, they might notice a comment from me appear and then notice the vote count immediately decrease (e.g., from 0 to -1), and thus infer that I was likely the one who downvoted.

  • Scenario #2: If the poster notices some time later that they received a downvote, they can go to their reputation tab and see the exact time (down to the minute) when the downvote was received; then if they see a comment from me on their post at around the same time, they might infer that I was likely the one who downvoted.

Does the Stack Exchange software contain any particular mitigations to protect against these scenarios or make these kinds of inferences harder to draw? Are any of the timestamps I mentioned above randomized or "fuzzed" to try to prevent correlating downvotes to comments? And are there any other scenarios I've overlooked where timing information reveals partial information about who the downvoter might have been?


Disclaimer: This is not a complaint or criticism. Also, this is not an attempt to track the identity of someone who downvoted me. I'm just curious what the potential privacy leaks might be, so I can take them into account when I post comments or otherwise use Stack Exchange sites.

Related: Critic badge reveals time of downvote discusses timing-related inferences that used to be possible due to the Critic badge, though that only applies to a user's first downvote, and apparently this has subsequently been mitigated: the time when the badge is awarded has been randomized to prevent the information leakage. Also, Does StackOverflow hide -1 rep from downvoter's profile for the "downvotee" so they won't be able to tell who downvoted them? discusses another scenario related to viewing a suspected downvoter's public profile, and explains how the software protects against that scenario.

  • To avoid revenge down votes, I rarely leave a comment if I down vote. I've had revenge down votes for voting to close questions. – Raedwald Jan 19 '16 at 13:47
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There's no prevention of "detective works" aimed to reveal the downvoter - the downvotes are just not disclosed. If someone can track me down, it doesn't really matter at least for me (don't see anything shameful in my downvotes, supposing also that you can't achieve anything by knowing that I've downvoted a post).

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