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In this recent question the issue came up as to whether shared accounts were permitted on Stack Exchange. I remember this having been discussed many times over the years, and the consensus has always been something like (my paraphrasing):

Yes, you can share an account if you want. It's not like we can tell who's using it, so it wouldn't be practical to enforce a rule to the contrary. But by doing so, you assume the implied risks: misbehaviour from one user could ban all of you, or they could steal the account. You won't get any special support if this happens.

From "What is the view on accounts shared by multiple users on Stack Overflow?" (2011), by jjnguy (former SO moderator):

Why not? Just because more than one user may manage this account doesn't devalue their contributions.

Do you really want to force people to verify that their account is used by the same person every time? I'm not sure if that is even possible.

This same thread has a post from Shog (current community manager) explaining why we don't need to treat this as a distinct case from individual accounts.

In 2012, Korneel Bouman (then a Stack Exchange Product Manager) gave a user instructions on how to share their account with coworkers.

We have several existing high-reputation accounts that identify as company names, not individuals (example, example), and I am in no hurry to ban them.


However, Stack Exchange's Terms of Service have apparently been written to contradict this:

Subscriber certifies to Stack Exchange that Subscriber is an individual

Stack Exchange Inc. should update the Terms of Service to reflect the preexisting community consensus, instead of overriding it.


There are many recent posts citing the Terms of Service to say that users can't share accounts, but that's putting the problem backwards. If Stack wants to restrict users of Talent, they may, but the community's decision should be respected with respect to general participation.

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    It may be that the community consensus is bad, and should be changed. That's very fair, but if so we should actually have that discussion, and we haven't. – Jeremy Banks Apr 20 '18 at 18:03
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    Are you sure about that second example you link to? Because based on the profile I wouldn't have guessed that or do you have other sources that confirms it is a team account? – rene Apr 20 '18 at 18:12
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    Interesting question: Can a team account run for moderator? – rene Apr 20 '18 at 18:13
  • Are we positive the account was suspended because of the shared nature? Given the account is getting the association bonus and doesn't have a 200+ rep account anywhere, that suggests a deleted account somewhere - which then makes you wonder "why was it deleted". – psubsee2003 Apr 20 '18 at 18:14
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    @rene It may only be used by an individual, but it's named after a company. If we can't use identifying-as-a-company as the criteria for moderation, how are we supposed to enforce this term? – Jeremy Banks Apr 20 '18 at 18:14
  • @psubsee2003 No, I doubt this has anything to do with that suspension, it's just where this line of thinking came from. – Jeremy Banks Apr 20 '18 at 18:15
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    Should I upvote for the good question, or downvote since I disagree? – Patrick Hofman Apr 20 '18 at 20:51
  • The full contexts of each of the posts giving various bits of support for group account usage seems to give some reasonable cautions and qualifications that, to my mind, adequately resolve the apparent divide between legal terms and practical policies. – Nathan Tuggy Apr 21 '18 at 6:24
  • @PatrickHofman Upvote for good question; downvoting to disagree should only be done on site-specific metas, not MSE. Votes count here, and provide/remove reputation. They don't on site-specific metas. – TylerH Jun 30 '18 at 4:52
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A lot of project teams ask, "Can we just use one big central account?"

This would be a very poor idea — to allow this by design would be a breaking change in how Stack Exchange works and builds trust. Here are just a few examples as to why (there are many many more, I'm sure):

  • Reputation is a proxy for "SE experience"
    There are a lot of features which users are unable to access until they gain enough experience to use them properly. A new employee/group member gaining access to the "shared account" on day one breaks that entirely.
  • Reputation implies expertise
    Gaining a lot of reputation in a particular tag give that user almost Moderator-level abilities. When folks award a lot of reputation to someone providing good content in a tag, that at least implies that the recipient probably knows what they are talking about. In a shared account, you don't actually know who is answering any particular question. Giving instant reputation with Moderator-like abilities to anyone with access to that shared account is a bad idea.
  • Users are responsible for their own actions
    Our Moderators⬥ will appreciate this one — a user is caught red-handed doing something inappropriate, so the Mod contacts the user (for a suspension or warning) and the user responds: "Oh, that wasn't me. Must have been someone else using my account."
  • The Inbox: Users are expected to follow-up on inquiries
    A user answers a question; another asks something else; and yet a third person on that account comments elsewhere and so on — and throughout that process, any 'inbox' messages asking for clarification or follow-up go… to yet someone else. When a user asks for help or writes something on this system, they incur at least some modicum of responsibility to answer questions or follow-up. Yet once you receive that inbox notice, the primary notification is gone, and nobody's going to routinely crawl back through old notifications to make sure someone else didn't clear something meant for them. That's going to make the content folks write feel somewhat more detached and anonymous.
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    I am not suggesting we encourage or support it, I am suggesting the Terms of Service should not forbid it. We let users do a lot of ill-advised things without banning them. – Jeremy Banks Apr 20 '18 at 19:49
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    @JeremyBanks And I'm suggesting it should continue to do so as it does now for the reasons I outlined above. – Robert Cartaino Apr 20 '18 at 19:50

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