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The How do I delete my account? page states that your questions and answers will be anonymized and disassociated when your account is deleted. Why doesn't this apply for comments as well? Any comments that have @-mentioned the deleted user remain unedited thus revealing the very thing that was supposed to be disassociated from the question/answer.

I think all Stack Exchange sites would benefit from a feature which anonymizes all comments in which a deleted user was @-mentioned. For example:

The following comment: @Chris please provide more info about...

Would instead become: @user306512 please provide more info about...

I have zero legal experience so I might be entirely wrong here, but I believe that with the modern legal standards regarding privacy, the right to be forgotten and the upcoming EU data-protection regulation this might be something worth looking into in order to better protect users privacy and identity.

marked as duplicate by ShaWiz discussion Nov 13 '17 at 13:54

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  • But Chris how would you suggest the cleaning up works if I don't add an @ in front of the name? Or if there are 2 users named Chris discussing stuff? And how about answers where I thank Chris for his edits/comments? And where you closed a question and you are mentioned in the close reason? How about chat? – rene Nov 13 '17 at 13:52
  • @rene don't forget display name can be changed, so a comment to Chris might become obsolete when Chris becomes Dan. – ShaWiz Nov 13 '17 at 13:55
  • @rene Obviously, no system can cater for every single possible scenario. I am solely interested in improving the current design which means catering for the ~99% of comments. Those probably don't have two users with the exact same username, the user was mentioned with the @ (most people do that). Chat is a different topic imo. – Chris Nov 13 '17 at 13:56
  • @ShadowWizard true, I listed the most visible ones. There is a ton of places where this might go wrong. – rene Nov 13 '17 at 13:56
  • @Chris I'd think 99% of usernames on SE are used by multiple accounts. – muru Nov 13 '17 at 14:38
  • @muru, yes, but not per individual thread. The algorithm would go through the deleted users questions and answer and replace any @-mention occurring there - it wouldn't do a global search-and-replace. In other words, there might be 10,000 Chris users in the whole network, but there is only 1 Chris in this topic, and in 99% of my own post history. – Chris Nov 13 '17 at 14:41

That's not technically possible with the current design of the system.

Currently, there is no indication whatsoever (server side, in the database) that a comment contains a "ping" to other user. Upon parsing the comment and sending the notification, this is forgotten and not logged anywhere.

So suppose there is such comment:

@Chris please provide more info about...

Maybe one Chris will delete his/her account, but what about all other users with the name Chris? Maybe the comment was meant for one of them?

lots of Chris

There is no way to know, so by doing what you suggest, there will be thousands of "innocent victims". I do not want this.

  • You better name yourself Shadow Wizard ... – rene Nov 13 '17 at 13:55
  • There are definitely certain technical limitations, but I don't think we can just call it "case closed" as a result. This isn't a "nice-to-have" feature - this involves user privacy which could, albeit in extremes, involve the law. Just look at what Google had to do. – Chris Nov 13 '17 at 14:03
  • 5
    @Chris if one is so paranoid, they should never post anything anywhere on the internet. Once posted, it exists forever and nobody can do anything against it. That is what everyone must know. Stuff is getting cached on external sites, by private people, etc. We can't possibly expect to scan the computers all over the world and wipe things out from them. – ShaWiz Nov 13 '17 at 14:05
  • I don't disagree with your premise, but sadly this isn't how things work. Yes, it might take a paranoid person to react like that, but these laws allow people to sue companies for data privacy infringement. In the (extremely unlikely) event that would ever happen claiming "the system wasn't designed that way" simply wouldn't cut it. For serious breaches fines could reach 10-20 million EUR - which would basically mean the end for Stack Exchange. Again, this is (I think) way more than your average "nice-to-have" feature. – Chris Nov 13 '17 at 14:12
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    Functionality for this would ultimately be complicated and bloated, because you have to consider a few things: 1) A lot of people don't use full names, but display names or first names, which have no protection under the law you cite anyways, and just aren't worth changing; 2) Some users change their names multiple times over the course of their history - should we then recurse through all their names and reset all of them? 3) It's easier to just let them complain and provide links, and delete the comments if it actually bothers them. – animuson Nov 13 '17 at 15:46
  • @animuson You are probably right about (3) as long as action is taken by admins. Regarding (1) a username can still be regarded as personal data because it may indirectly reveal ones identity. I want to stress that this isn't really a matter of opinion but rather a matter of interpretation of what laws require. I realize its a hell of a hassle, but it is what it is. – Chris Nov 13 '17 at 16:12
  • @Chris yes, anyone can raise a custom comment flag asking to delete it, or even use the contact form without any account, and explain why a comment should be removed. – ShaWiz Nov 13 '17 at 16:23

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