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The short of the story here is that we have a brand new deletion process now live on all network sites, and it's simpler than it's ever been!

Why a new deletion process?

Well, the old one was pretty much a combination of various features that have been implemented over the years. To give you a clue of how difficult it was to use, here's a rundown of the system:

  1. When you select "I need to delete my profile" it asks you for a profile link. The profile link has to be for this site but users frequently end up on Meta or Stack overflow's contact page via following links to those sites form various places, and try entering another site URL into the box. All we give them is a vague "this isn't a valid profile" error message that doesn't really explain what they've done wrong.
  2. Assuming they got past the profile URL part, the system now makes a decision on whether to let them proceed with the automatic system or kick to the support system. If the user is currently suspended, has over 1,000 reputation, isn't logged in, or the system just couldn't verify something then we get a ticket in our support system to do it manually.
  3. Depending on which path you followed above:
    • If you got into the automated system, congratulations! You get an email that tells you to wait 24 hours for another email.
    • If it got kicked to us, you'll get a reply from us at... some point when we get around to it. It'll tell you to go edit your profile and add "delete me" to the profile text to verify your request. But in reality, you could just reply to the message from your email, because that verifies you too. We just can't go deleting profiles because some random user knows your email address and typed it into a box.
  4. Once step 3 is out of the way, you'll get scheduled for deletion.
    • If you went through the automated process, you'll get another email telling you that there's now a link in your global inbox on-site and you can't do anything from that email. So you go to the site and then open the inbox to click the link, which some users have trouble finding because who wants to learn what the heck a global inbox is when you registered for one thing and decided you didn't want to stay.
      • If that's not complicated enough, this link also expires. If you let it expire, the system doesn't let you use the automated deletion process ever again for that profile. So you'd then have to contact us anyways and start the process over again.
    • If you went through us, we schedule you for deletion once you've been verified, again after some arbitrary period of time.
  5. You'll wait 24 hours for the countdown to finish off and your profile will finally be deleted. Right? Right???
  6. Wellllll, under some conditions where you have a lot of reputation or votes or something else, your deletion gets held up for review by a developer before it actually gets final-deleted. We don't actually tell the user that happened, but since most of these users will end up going through the manual deletion process, we sneak in a message to our final email in hopes they won't just request deletion again.

Phew, we made it.

Now, ditch the entire thing!

That's right, pretty much all of what I just said is now gone. That's an awful, complicated system that was not only making users' lives miserable when trying to delete their profile, but also giving those of us working the support desk a lot of extra work that didn't really need to be done.

So how does it work now?

We've drastically simplified the process! We now show a Delete Profile link in the sidebar when editing your profile to all users. This page will outline everything about the deletion process for you:

  • Deletion is irreversible and you can't have your stuff back if you go through with it.
  • Deletion doesn't actually help you get around question blocks (if the user is currently blocked).
  • The profile may be held up for final review at the end of the countdown (if the user has high reputation).
  • The deletion only affects this site, and you'll need to complete it on other sites if you want all profiles deleted.

If users skip over all that information, no big deal. It's mostly there as a disclaimer to point to in case they ask "well why can't I have my post back?" later on down the road. Skipping past all of that, all the user has to do is check a box to confirm they understand and then click the big button at the bottom to delete their profile. That's it!

Their profile will be immediately scheduled for deletion and the 24 hour countdown to deletion will begin. We will also fire an email off to the email address on file for the profile notifying them that the deletion has been scheduled, and send a followup email when the deletion is finalized.

As usual, a user can still cancel the request by clicking the cancel button in the countdown banner that appears on their profile.

Coming Soon! When you select "I need to delete my user profile" on the contact form, you'll be automatically redirected to /users/delete/current on that site. The form for contacting us about that option will no longer exist.

Hopefully these changes will also result in a large decrease in the number of support tickets we're receiving about deletion and the number of support requests on Meta from users who are utterly confused about the process or why the form won't accept their profile link.

Pre-empting some questions:

Why are you posting this here?

Yeah, I get it. I'm not asking anything. This question is meant to be more of a public service announcement because there is a lot of information scattered around Meta about the deletion process that has now been made inaccurate. Most of these old reports and complaints about how complicated it is can now be closed as a duplicate of this. As well, a lot of the users who would normally be directing users on how to delete their profile are not themselves deleting profiles, so probably wouldn't catch on that a change like this has been made (it's actually been live on Meta for almost 48 hours, and live on the rest of the network almost 24 hours).

Will suspended users be able to delete their profiles this way?

Yes. We briefly debated this when designing the new system and decided that, given new improvements to the process (namely that we now automatically reinstate a suspension when they recreate their profile), preventing suspended users from deleting their profiles does not make any sense. Rejoice moderators; you no longer need to follow weird paths or suggest they contact us to have their profile deleted - just send them to /users/delete/current!

Will very new users with almost no activity still be allowed to instantly delete?

Yes. The same rules of instant deletion (not posted or voted more than once) will still apply, but will be incorporated into the new workflow. Essentially, rather than scheduling deletion in that case, the deletion will take immediate effect. The user will receive only a single email notification finalizing the deletion.

Will users be able to schedule deletion of all profiles simultaneously?

No. They still need to go to each one individually. If they have a lot of profiles (say more than 10) that it becomes too much effort to do that, they can contact us using the Other option.

  • To be 100% clear - the consequences of account deletion haven't changed at all, right? Just the way people can go about getting it done? Also, is there any change to the system for moderators deleting users, or is this just about self-deletion? – Rand al'Thor Aug 25 '17 at 16:05
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    @Randal'Thor Right. Explaining the consequences is just something we've never done very clearly before. The information was available but not in the place where it was most relevant. This only affects self-deletion. The moderator tool is still the same. – animuson Aug 25 '17 at 16:06
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    (gnat hurries to test new process on his most active accoun... – gnat Aug 25 '17 at 16:10
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    So what happens with those accounts (high # votes) that would have gone through the manual process? Is the keeping of votes from these users going to be automatic are are we going to say "tough you lose rep" to all the other users? – ChrisF Aug 25 '17 at 16:18
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    @ChrisF They'll still drop into the dev queue for manual review as usual. We'll explicitly tells users this if their account will end up there after the 24 hours. The page also prevents them from submitting another deletion request if it's currently in that queue. -- I should clarify that the manual process where they get scheduled for deletion was a completely separate queue than the dev queue that finalizes them. – animuson Aug 25 '17 at 16:21
  • @animuson - ah yes. Now I re-read the announcement properly I see that bit ;) – ChrisF Aug 25 '17 at 16:23
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    And here's me hoping (after reading the question title) that it was going to easier to nuke spammers/trolls :) – DavidPostill Aug 25 '17 at 16:25
  • There's a text "If you want to delete multiple profiles, you'll need to visit each site separately and request deletion of those individual profiles.", but it doesn't mention how if the user wants to delete a lot of profiles (as mentioned on this meta post). Is it deliberate to not mentioning about "Contact us"? – Meta Andrew T. Aug 25 '17 at 16:43
  • @Elias Kind of. In the previous system we got a lot of requests from users who could have easily gone through their profiles and insta-deleted the vast majority of their profiles without any intervention or waiting. We'd strongly prefer users try to do as much of it themselves as possible and only turn to us if they just really don't want to. At least I'm afraid that us mentioning they can contact us for multiple profiles would just encourage users who only have two or three to contact us when they really don't need to. – animuson Aug 25 '17 at 16:45
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    Could you make this featured so all sites can see it please? It seem simpler than reposting on child metas. – terdon Aug 26 '17 at 17:25
  • comming soon​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​​coming when? – John Militer Aug 27 '17 at 23:55
  • @gnat: it takes you more that 24 hours to type out a comment?! – Martijn Pieters Aug 28 '17 at 17:25
  • See, this is why Meta needs a red announcement tag. – feetwet Aug 29 '17 at 0:56
  • Re point 2 of the old process: If the user is currently suspended, has over 1,000 reputation, isn't logged in, or the system just couldn't verify something then we get a ticket in our support system to do it manually. Is this also indicative of the criteria used for the new process? For example, you say that the way it works now is that The profile may be held up for final review at the end of the countdown (if the user has high reputation). What counts as high reputation? Is it if they have over 1,000 or something else? And... – Monomeeth Aug 29 '17 at 1:15
  • ...how many times does a user have to have voted on other posts before they end up in the manual queue? – Monomeeth Aug 29 '17 at 1:15
63

This sounds great! It should reduce frustration all around.

Just one thing... as a user, even a super-careful one (like I think I am), I'd like to have the option to require confirmation via email (or password challenge, h/t Servy) before an irrevocable (and unlikely) action takes place. Just in case I were to accidentally leave myself logged in somewhere I oughtn't've, or have my browser hijacked, or have a crazy-high fever and not know what I'm doing, or whatever. Not that it's likely (did I mention being super-careful? especially with diamonds?), but nothing is impossible. Since it is very very unlikely that I would ask for my account to be deleted, I'm willing to put up with the inconvenience of having to say "yes I'm sure" via a link in email or re-authenticate my OpenID credential. And there are times when the 24-hour notice wouldn't be enough time for me to see and respond to the message to cancel it. I'm looking for positive confirmation, not negative.

I wrote that as "I", but if I really thought I were the only SE user who might want that, I'd probably just keep being super-careful and bet on the human intervention catching it on sites where I have higher rep or a diamond. But I suspect there are other users who are also dedicated users, who aren't likely to delete their accounts, who might not trigger a human "wait, what?", who'd like the extra protection against pranking classmates, exploits, or whatever.

Would it be possible to have an option (off by default) to require confirmation, for a bit of extra safety?

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    Well, there's still a dev queue which pretty much any user with a nominal number of votes ends up in for verification. I guarantee if a moderator suddenly popped up into that queue it would raise a lot of eyebrows and some discussion. ;P We didn't really want email verification at all because of the number of users we already get who complain about not receiving emails for a number of other things. It's certainly something we could consider, but I won't guarantee anything any time soon. – animuson Aug 25 '17 at 16:43
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    @animuson To protect against someone deleting an account that was left logged into a public computer, could the deletion action require you to re-authenticate, much like changing your password also requires? – Servy Aug 25 '17 at 17:03
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    @Servy good idea; I edited in that possibility (and also responded to animuson's comment about the mod case). – Monica Cellio Aug 25 '17 at 17:37
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    @animuson Why can't accounts just be soft-deleted so it can be easily reversed? As in: Is there a legal reason to purge all user information? – Mysticial Aug 25 '17 at 17:47
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    What you say makes a lot of sense, but I’m not sure I 100% understand “an option (off by default)”.  This almost sounds a little like “have a team standing by with a safety net, so I can call for them after I hit the ground”.  Do you mean “add a checkbox to my profile page that says ‘I really like my account, and I want to keep it’ that, once checked, would trigger the extra level of confirmation when you (accidentally) start the account-deletion boulder rolling”? – Scott Aug 25 '17 at 18:57
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    @Mysticial There are a lot of random laws out there that prevent us keeping information we don't need, particularly when a user demands it. Right now the only things we keep are their email address and any IPs that were logged with their actions. Past the legal aspect, we just don't want to deal with restoring profiles. We technically can restore all of your posts and comments, we just don't. We don't have the manpower to deal with requests from users when we already told them they couldn't have the stuff back. Outside of a complete revamp of the accounts system, that isn't gonna change. – animuson Aug 25 '17 at 19:05
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    @Scott yes, I mean a per-user setting for "don't just accept the "delete me" button on its own; I want you to check with me". For a user with that setting, clicking on "delete me" should prompt an authentication challenge or email with a "yes, really" link or something like that. It could go on the "site preferences" page under settings. – Monica Cellio Aug 25 '17 at 19:23
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    Of course, unless it is irrevocable once set (like marking a post “community wiki”), what’s to stop the cracker who hijacked your session / credentials (or even you, while temporarily out of your mind) from also turning off that option when he deletes your account (posing as you)? – Scott Aug 25 '17 at 19:28
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    @Scott not much -- it's an extra precaution, but not bulletproof. Putting it on the preferences page (and not, say, right next to that "delete me" button) helps. I still lock my front door even though a determined burglar would smash a window. – Monica Cellio Aug 25 '17 at 19:31
  • @animuson When you say "moderator" do you mean "moderator on a site they mod" or "moderator on any site on the network"? If it was on a site we weren't a mod, does that show up for you or would you have to xref? – Catija Aug 25 '17 at 19:52
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    @Catija On a site they moderate. There's no reason to prevent a moderator deleting some random profile that they might have created just to flag spam (it's happened before), but a place where they have a diamond is a bit concerning. – animuson Aug 25 '17 at 19:53
  • @animuson care to clarify what a nominal number of votes are that bumps an account into the dev queue? – Yvette Colomb Sep 2 '17 at 18:49
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    @Yvette I honestly don't know the numbers off the top of my head. I'm not in a position to look them up right now. – animuson Sep 2 '17 at 21:15
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Overall I think this change is excellent. However, I want to see some extra safety added:

all the user has to do is check a box to confirm they understand and then click the big button at the bottom to delete their profile. That's it!

Currently that means I just click these three things and my account's gone:

enter image description here

In general, close-proximity link clicks leading to a decision as consequential as this one make me a bit nervous. I've wound up clicking more things more times just fumbling a tablet in my hands while changing seat on the train.

Some utilities involve extra confirmation from another factor than just clicking. For example, World of Warcraft has you type in your character's name before you can confirm the deletion. Some other services have you write out "I AGREE" into a text input field or something like that. Whatever the method chosen, a process like that leaves virtually zero chance of anything happening accidentally, and makes it an extremely deliberate process.

I also think Monica Cellio's suggestion to add an email confirmation definitely should happen, and not be an option but a default step in the process.

If you implement requiring someone to re-authenticate (i.e. type in their password), that shouldn't be the text box in and of itself -- autofill will often make sure that's one less thing to interact with, not one more thing, defeating the point of making sure you're doing this deliberately.

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    Four clicks, you have to get to the "edit profile" tab first. How often do you go there? After the deletion is scheduled, an email is sent informing you of what is happening, and then you have 24 hours to cancel the deletion. – user315433 Aug 28 '17 at 22:13
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Will suspended users be able to delete their profiles this way? Yes.

It may be worth mentioning that a suspended user cannot access the "Edit profile" tab (it throws 404). They will have to navigate to /users/delete/current directly by the URL.

Also, the system does not appear to differentiate between suspension and post quality blocks when displaying the warning. All of the text below is shown in case of suspension, although only the first paragraph applies.

deletion

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    This has always been an oddity in our system regarding suspensions (you are inherently post blocked while suspended, or at least the system view it that way). It might be simpler to just ignore the post block notice if the suspension notice is displayed, since the current system doesn't provide a way of determining post block status while suspended... I'm not really worried about the 404 on the main edit profile page. We'll also be redirecting users there from the contact page, and the help center article links directly there for those who don't like clicking things. – animuson Aug 27 '17 at 3:59
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It is a good idea to allow people to delete their profile without filling up the form on the contact us page. It is like giving more control to the user over his/ her account.

But you said that suspended users can delete their profile. If a person delete his profile an create a new one to overcome post ban, it won't work. But what will happen if a suspended user deletes his profile and creates a new one?

Will the suspension re implemented or simply lifted?

If it is lifted, then there is a chance of abusing this feature.

Will the CMs do a final analysis of users' activities? That means if a user want to delete his profile and before that he deletes all his contents on the site, will the CMs aware of it or since it is an automatic process, do someone have to flag it manually?

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    Suspensions are re-instated—see the section "Will suspended users be able to delete their profiles this way?" in the question, which mentions this. – Aurora0001 Aug 25 '17 at 19:33
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    We used to prevent suspended users deleting because we didn't have any system to prevent that. But years ago we added a system that automatically reapplies the remainder of the suspension when they create a new profile, so continuing to prevent suspended users from deleting was just an artifact of the far past. – animuson Aug 25 '17 at 19:34
  • The vandalism case is worth considering. Some rage-quitters want to inflict maximum damage on the way out, and deletion can interfere with some of the anti-vandalism measures (intentionally vague here; happy to clarify in TL). – Monica Cellio Aug 25 '17 at 19:46
  • in SO, there is a bot to found out and report such edits to some chat rooms. But don't know about any official tool – Optimus Prime Aug 25 '17 at 19:47

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