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While reading What is the purpose of the "last seen" info on profile page?, I came across this answer. It describes various uses of the "last seen" field that can help people to abuse the system.

If you can't be bothered to read it, it's basically a mini stalkers' manifesto for SE. Very creepy (some of the creepy bits have now been edited out, presumably as a response to this post)

As this field isn't particularly useful anyway, can it please be augmented in some way to reduce the potential for abuse? At least on smaller sites where it's much easier to use that data to infer information that's supposed to be anonymous?

I'm not sure exactly what form that augmentation should take, it could be as simple as "seen in the last hour" or "seen today/yesterday" rather than the more precise version we see now.

I know, I know, I mean who's going to sit there waiting and watching for these events to transpire just to make sure they can stalk a downvoter, right?

Trust me, it happens. On a site I moderate, we've lost good contributors because every time they downvoted a particular person's posts, they almost immediately got one in kind. Others who've downvoted have received comments on random posts from this person demanding an explanation for your recent downvote at xx:xx:xx on foo question:...

The perpetrator even bragged to me in public comments that he could identify anyone who downvoted his posts; the "last seen" data can help him to do it.

N.B. Something vaguely similar has been requested before, but that was ~8 years ago and for different reasons.

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  • just curious - which community?
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Apr 29, 2017 at 23:53
  • For similar reasons I made a suggestion just to reduce the precision of the last seen time (i.e. hours rather than minutes) but the premise was largely dismissed as no concern: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/285220/…
    – Harry V.
    Apr 30, 2017 at 0:23
  • Possible duplicate of Can we set privacy for "last seen" status? (or meta.stackexchange.com/questions/61241/… or the others like it, or the fuzzying suggestion)
    – Jason C
    Apr 30, 2017 at 1:02
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    (My own opinion: 1) Either you think the feature is useful or you don't, no point arguing that here, but I'd hate to see it removed and would much rather see it fuzzied or randomized or just not changed at all, and 2) I do find it slightly face-palmy that this seems to be the problem-du-jour because somebody happened to mention it in a post today, this really has been a non-issue in the last about-a-decade that it's existed, it didn't just suddenly become a big deal today.)
    – Jason C
    Apr 30, 2017 at 1:09
  • @JasonC The details of the behaviour were posted today, I reacted today. How long should I have waited?
    – Clive
    Apr 30, 2017 at 1:11
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    @Clive If it's been truly an issue for you, why'd you wait until today? You've always known the stat was in the profile. Wasn't it an issue yesterday?
    – Jason C
    Apr 30, 2017 at 1:11
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    @JasonC Because the details of the behaviour were posted today. I wasn't aware of the source of the behaviour until today, so I posted today
    – Clive
    Apr 30, 2017 at 1:13
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    @Clive Then when you say "Trust me, it happens", I don't believe you, or at least, I don't trust you that the last seen time is the culprit, given that you weren't aware of it yesterday. Most of the time the downvoter is from context. There exists no way to e.g. sort users by last seen time. You have to already have a set of guesses to begin with, and how you get that set of guesses is the actual source of this behavior, not the "last seen" time.
    – Jason C
    Apr 30, 2017 at 1:15
  • @JasonC Randomised/fuzzied would be fine. If I edit my question to include that will you un-dupehammer it?
    – Clive
    Apr 30, 2017 at 1:15
  • @Clive I don't have hammer privileges but if you edited your question to include that I'd remove the vote, but in spirit I'd VTC it as a dupe of Harry Vervet's request (only in spirit, vote time thresholds and all).
    – Jason C
    Apr 30, 2017 at 1:17
  • Oh sorry @JasonC, I ask so few questions I thought that banner at the top telling me that might already be an answer was the close banner and I assumed you'd closed it :) Regarding the other stuff, there's some info I can't really give that would probably help to address those comments. I realise that might make this a bit fruitless, I was hoping the gist of it would be enough
    – Clive
    Apr 30, 2017 at 1:20
  • @Clive As an aside, if, as a mod, you do have other info that shows a consistent pattern with a deeper, more realistic view of the source than "last seen" alone, it might be very worthwhile if you could either a) come up with a way to present data without violating anybody's privacy, or b) come up with a potential solution and post that (as a separate thing from this "last seen" business, of course). (Also as an aside, re the dupe banner you noticed: details are here.)
    – Jason C
    Apr 30, 2017 at 1:22
  • Yes you're right @JasonC, thanks. Bit late now but I'll see what I can do tomorrow
    – Clive
    Apr 30, 2017 at 1:26
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    Revenge-downvoting and a pattern of non-constructive comments like that are both grounds for suspension, especially if it's so bad that one person is driving away productive users. Apr 30, 2017 at 3:09
  • @Monica agreed, that happened too
    – Clive
    Apr 30, 2017 at 9:22

1 Answer 1

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It feels somewhat unlikely to me. Bear with me.

For this to actually work, you'd need to know who the user was. In which case, you'd already be sitting on their profile - and you could watch for reputation changes anyway.

It also wouldn't work if someone lurked a lot - I typically have a window opened up to MSE and SU all day (as well as chat) even if I'm not at my PC.

I'm not saying there's no underlying problem, but I'm not convinced this will actually solve it.

On a site I moderate, we've lost good contributors because every time they downvoted a particular person's posts, they almost immediately got one in kind.

This is not good, and probably needs someone to take a look at it.

The perpetrator even bragged to me in public comments that he could identify anyone who downvoted his posts; the "last seen" data can help him to do it.

Excellent, you have an admission of targeted downvotes for the wrong reasons. I suggest collating all the proof you have and passing it up (maybe with a message to the community moderation team) to see if votes can be invalidated, and dealing with any behaviour that's non productive appropriately. People like this would find some way to lash out - comments maybe.

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  • On a small site, the number of users that have downvote privileges is small; for someone who spends nearly all of their waking hours on the site, it's not difficult to spot patterns of usual attendance, and also factor those in to the vote "auditing". I wouldn't be surprised if spreadsheets were involved. However I have to concede that: I'm not saying there's no underlying problem, but I'm not convinced this will actually solve it. is a good summation. This is probably only one small tool in the belt, maybe not even a massively significant one. If people want it to stay as-is, so be it
    – Clive
    Apr 30, 2017 at 9:47
  • Well, you can request longer suspensions, assuming he's not socking, and if he is, you can delete the socks as socks. But dealing with these sorts is a whole different thing.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Apr 30, 2017 at 10:42
  • Yeah that's a different conversation really. My point was only that I kind of agree with your conclusion
    – Clive
    Apr 30, 2017 at 10:55

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