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I have come across a site-meta question that ended up on the Hot Meta Posts side bar. At the time of writing, that post has about 1000 views.

Accidentally I noticed that OP used his own server (his domain name is similar to his name) to store the images on of his post. A user changed those images to point to the official imgur account. Now OP has rolled back that edit.

We can only speculate why OP rolled back that edit, and why he is using his own server. Maybe he thinks it is cool to do so, I don't know. (I didn't include a link to the post because I don't want to point to him)

I am worried about the privacy and security implications. One can track users visiting that post by hosting the images. Is this something to worry about? And if so, how to handle this?

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    Congratulation! You just discovered why I use the Policeman Firefox extension to manually manage all requests a page makes. He may move the images to a not official imgur account host, this will mean that they won't even get requested. You may also now understand why I am still rooting for disabling chat onebox. On a more serious note, this question may actually be worth asking on IT Security. The guys there may know how viable could be to perform an attack such way (will it be just tracking or something worse like a drive-by-download / poisoned image attempt) – Νеvеrꭑoꭇе Feb 9 '16 at 9:35
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    Whatever server that user is using, it's likely to be shut down long before SE, leaving the question with broken images. So in my opinion it's worth an edit war, insisting on having the images in SE dedicated account. If it keeps going, just flag and ask a moderator to lock. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Feb 9 '16 at 10:33
  • @ShadowWizard Valid point in justifying the edit and bringing the problem to mod attention if needed. Still, would be worth noticing about any security implications the whole "images on my host" my have. – Νеvеrꭑoꭇе Feb 9 '16 at 11:18
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    I proposed disallowing images from anything other than the SE imgur account a while back. Privacy concerns aren't the only reason this might be a good idea. – Mad Scientist Feb 9 '16 at 12:05
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    I imgur any non-imgur'd images whenever I'm editing posts and come across an instance where the image is hosted someplace else, regardless of where that someplace else is. Privacy aside, it prevents dead links and ensures the content remains available. If the user in question is preventing you from doing this flag their post for moderator attention. – Flyk Feb 9 '16 at 12:54
  • @Flyk re I Imgur any ..." -> by doing that you are violating copy right, amongst other things. Posts to SE are covered by a CC licence and storing images on Imgur is (or was)(see current Meta discussion) claimed to give Imgur the right to do almost anything they wish with them for any reason. | ALL images are copyright except those (perhaps) for which an explicit Public Domain licence exists. By posting an image to Imgur you are ignoring any licencing or copyright issues. <rudemode=1>. By flagging for moderator attention you are calling in a bigger bully. – Russell McMahon Sep 9 at 20:01
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I'd agree that from a privacy standpoint, banning users hosting images on servers they control would be beneficial.

In the DMZ it's been a long standing acknowledgement that people's locations can be uncovered in this way (well apart obviously from users using things like Tor) unless the user default blocks image loads.

So restricting image links (or anything else that'll onebox) to a whitelist of approved services, would seem like the smart move.

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    Yes, but it has also been a long standing acknowledgement in the DMZ that IP addresses are basically public... The only information such a malicious actor can glean is that there ARE users from that location that have viewed his post (with the possible correlation of timing, on a post with very low views). If you feel your IP address reveals private information about you, you shouldnt be on the internet without e.g. Tor. – Reinstate Monica Feb 9 '16 at 13:09
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    sure but the DMZ could be ascribed a level of awareness/paranoia which isn't universal. I would suggest that the idea that someone can grab your possible location + information about your browser/OS just by posting an image in chat would come as a (nasty) surprise to a decent percentage of SE users. – Rоry McCune Feb 9 '16 at 13:18
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    Yeah, like that guy that got trolled into going completely off the internet... Still, that means we need education, not security theatre. – Reinstate Monica Feb 9 '16 at 13:21
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    I'm not sure I'd call it theatre, I'd suggest it was the site conforming to expectations (surprising users is rarely good) and enhancing likely privacy, at what seems a reasonable cost (blocking user hosted images) and it also deals with the problems of images on short-lived hosts expiring and leaving broken links – Rоry McCune Feb 9 '16 at 13:24
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    Oh I agree its a good idea to do, but I don't think its about conforming to people's misunderstanding of how the internet works. – Reinstate Monica Feb 9 '16 at 13:29
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    The funny thing in this is SE considers users' IPs private and AFAIK puts some constraints on mods' access to them. Side-hosted stuff is as cheap circumvention of the policy as it goes. – Deer Hunter Feb 9 '16 at 13:36
  • @DeerHunter because that is associating a specific user with a specific IP / location. That is different from unaffiliated IP sources. – Reinstate Monica Feb 9 '16 at 13:43
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    @AviD ahh but with images in chat it can be relatively easy to pin a specific user to a specific IP address, especially in quieter rooms. – Rоry McCune Feb 9 '16 at 14:00
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I would suggest banning non-Imgur hosts in main, meta and chat, and creating an auto-migration script to crawl through the existing picture base. This is more than annoying - such activities may be a prelude to spearphishing.

  • Considering that many SE users have an email address linked in the public section of their profile, this is worth noticing too. – Νеvеrꭑoꭇе Feb 9 '16 at 11:10
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    Non imgur in chat is... a bit awkward. Sure, its probably the easiest to implement but it would significantly diminish the user experience - especially with mobile not having an image upload easily (save image to local album, go to se app, ask a question, post image from album, don't post question, copy generated url, go back to chat, paste link). – user213963 Feb 10 '16 at 0:31
  • @MichaelT - this is a usability problem to be solved by SE devs no matter where the image is hosted. – Deer Hunter Feb 11 '16 at 18:07
  • @DeerHunter normally I can just long touch the image, copy image, and then paste when in chat and that works just fine. – user213963 Feb 11 '16 at 19:25
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I'm not even assuming malicious intent, since I sometimes do chuck images and files on personal hosting. It's contrary to best practice though.

I'd actually consider an edit to use the official Imgur image host a good idea - not only because of privacy, but if the OP's personal hosting goes down, changes, or he accidentally deletes it, its going to impact the usefulness of the answer.

An edit to use SE's preferred image host would probably not be contrary to 'the OP's intent' when it comes to the question.

If he wants to track folks that way, I'd suggest keelhauling.

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    Too late to keelhaul after the fact. Prevention >> mitigation. – Deer Hunter Feb 10 '16 at 2:50

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