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Prior to May 2017, accounts used to be automatically deleted if they met certain criteria. However, in May 2017, we stopped culling inactive users (see When will inactive accounts be deleted?).

Today, in the most recent blog post, it says:

As part of our new data-retention policy, we will now delete accounts that have been inactive for more than two years and where the user has never engaged in any meaningful activity.

What is the definition of "meaningful activity" here?

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  • Wouldn't the definition look an awful lot like the one for "anything of significance"? May 22, 2018 at 7:46
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    @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog: I mean, sure, but … why exactly do you need some bullet-proof 110% certain super-official definition of something that really isn't in much doubt and doesn't really matter all that much? May 22, 2018 at 7:49
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    This may be relevant to many of the chat bots on the network, which often only have the minimal amount of participation required to unlock chat. (I doubt chat activity will be considered by this script.)
    – Jeremy
    May 22, 2018 at 16:50
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    @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog We'll get the right person to get an answer on this soon.
    – Joe Friend
    May 23, 2018 at 20:32
  • @user1114 Any chatbot would have necessarily contributed meaningful activity in order to get enough rep to access chat. I can't imagine a world where upvoted posts don't count as "meaningful activity" (regardless of what else might also count).
    – Servy
    May 23, 2018 at 21:58
  • Amusingly, this eventually solves my spam profile problem <3
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    May 24, 2018 at 5:43
  • @JourneymanGeek Why is that? May 24, 2018 at 5:52
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    they are profile scammers. So if no one does anything for 2 years, they have no meaningful activity and are gone
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    May 24, 2018 at 6:04
  • First paragraph is wrong. Prior to May 2017, accounts should have been automatically deleted if they met certain criteria. As far as I know, this never worked, and the millions of stale ancient accounts is all the proof we need. It was bugged from day 1. May 24, 2018 at 19:04
  • @ShadowWizard Evidence? Also see prior revisions to the answer in the second link; it was completely rewritten. May 24, 2018 at 19:12

2 Answers 2

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As you can imagine, we have a large number of users who essentially opened an account, never did anything, forgot they created an account and stopped visiting the site.

Rather than holding on to that data forever, we plan to delete an account if a user:

  • hasn't visited the site in the last two years
  • and never asked or answered a question
  • and has a reputation of 1
  • and doesn't have a Developer Story or hasn't applied to a job or job search status ≠ actively looking
  • and hasn't opened or clicked any promotional email in the last year
  • and hasn't engaged in any other activity, such as edits, voting, bounties, etc.

As you can see, we are really targeting users who really, truly don't use our site. In fact, while building the query for the purge, we discovered that most of the impacted users fall into the tech-debt category: 2 out of 3 were imports from our 2011 move to network-wide single sign-on.

We will not notify affected users because there is no easy action they can take to reactivate their existing accounts. It will be easier for them to just create a new account from scratch if they ever decide again that they would like to be a registered member.

All users who matched this criteria as of June 2018 were deleted as part of a batch process. However, we did not reinstate automatic deletion. We may continue to do mass deletions like this as batches in the future.

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    Curious clarification... by "never" do you really mean "never"? Or does it only apply in cases where the question/answer wasn't deleted? As an example, lots of spam accounts post questions or answers but they're nearly immediately deleted - would these accounts also be removed?
    – Catija StaffMod
    May 24, 2018 at 19:02
  • @Catija this isn't meant to be used against spammers as far as I can tell. May 24, 2018 at 19:07
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    @ShadowWizard But most mods don't seek and destroy accounts used for spam... we're not notified of them in any way, so we would have to go out of our way to find them and destroy them. Even with a two-year gap, I'd think that getting rid of the account eventually would be useful? Though, I guess Shog was just talking about auto-destroying accounts that had their only post nuked as spam.
    – Catija StaffMod
    May 24, 2018 at 19:10
  • @Catija sure, it would be useful, I just don't think it's part of the change introduced here. Adding checks like "were all the deleted posts flagged as spam?" would make things more complicated and prone to errors. May 24, 2018 at 19:11
  • @ShadowWizard there is a reason that other delete inactive user batch was disabled. I don't expect Nick will allow another query to run that takes 6 to 8 minutes to complete. Having all kind of extra joins for those two accounts that describe your case is a loss we can have, no?
    – rene
    May 24, 2018 at 19:26
  • So posting comments, chat messages, data.SE queries etc. will not matter? It's fine, but I'd be curious to know how many links will be "broken".
    – Nemo
    May 25, 2018 at 13:13
  • I'd be interested in knowing how many of these accounts are deleted each year. Are there statistics on this?
    – pushkin
    Feb 6, 2019 at 18:57
  • Does this only happen if they have no questions, or if they have no visible questions? If they ask a question and it gets deleted can they still be autodeleted? Aug 9, 2020 at 23:24
  • @animuson Speaking of account deletion, are the parts about holiday waiting periods in the FAQ correct? Dec 9, 2021 at 21:50
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    @Sonic We are closed the 24th and the last week of December. Afaik they will be processed normally minus that day and week. But I no longer handle the Community Support queue or the accounts queue (the notifications for the accounts queue feed into the Community Support queue).
    – animuson StaffMod
    Dec 9, 2021 at 21:53
-1

I do not believe the accepted answer is currently correct. I was doing a name search of users with my name and found

https://stackoverflow.com/users/4832957/james-jenkins-s?tab=profile

Member for 4 years, 3 months

1 profile view

Last seen Apr 25 '15 at 21:39

1 REPUTATION

The profile view count was 0 when I first looked, but it increased to 1, while I was finding this meta post.

The profile clearly meets all the criteria except possibly for "and hasn't opened or clicked any promotional email in the last year" all the other points are verifiably met by looking at the profile.

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    They have a developer story.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Aug 12, 2019 at 16:59
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    @Catija maybe the image is counting as a developer story? For me it shows the picture and "This user hasn't added an item to their Developer Story yet." Aug 12, 2019 at 17:02
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    @Catija how so? Their developer story is blank. The link exists always, even when one never put anything in there. Aug 13, 2019 at 8:40
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    Anyway, that user might have "opened or clicked any promotional email in the last year" which saved their account from nuking. Aug 13, 2019 at 8:40
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    "The profile clearly meets all the criteria except..." So this does not in any way demonstrate that the accepted answer is incorrect.
    – wovano
    Nov 19, 2021 at 7:24
  • A staff member just checked this and discovered that this was run as a one-time batch job in June 2018 and never run since. Dec 11, 2021 at 7:39

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