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Suppose another user posts a question in which they disclose information that might be abused by people reading that post, to the detriment of the poster or others. Fictional example for illustration:

I work at a fast-food restaurant in Springfield, California. Our management practices involve keeping large amounts of cash on the premises, even during the late shift when only two people are working. We are located across the road from the town bus terminal which has a history of crime and I am concerned that these practices put us at risk of armed robbery. What should we do about it?

In this example, the details may be enough to identify the business. In combination with detailing the security issue, having this visible on a public forum increases the risk that either the poster or their co-workers will experience exactly the kind of crime that the poster is concerned about.

Is it reasonable for another user who sees this post to address the risk by editing it?

Some options that come to mind:

  1. Do nothing; let the poster take responsibility for their own safety and that of their co-workers.
  2. Warn them of the risk in a comment, suggest that they edit the post, and then delete the comment if they do so (to avoid drawing a casual reader's attention to the fact that their might be something juicy in the edit history).
  3. Promptly edit the post, removing sensitive information even if that makes the post slightly less clear. (In the above example, one could change "across the road from the bus terminal" to "in a high-crime location" without any harm, but sometimes identifying details are also relevant to the question and can't be removed without some info loss, and obfuscating the nature of the security problem might make it harder to answer.)
  4. Try #2, but if there's no response within a few days, go to #3 and then delete the comment.

My inclination is towards either #3 or #4. My thinking is that if the OP really objects to the edit they can revert, and if necessary the conversation can continue from there. #4 is less intrusive, #3 gets the dangerous content out of sight faster and with less risk of calling attention to it.

However, looking at "What is the etiquette for modifying posts?", none of the answers discuss this specific situation as a case where editing is appropriate. This kind of edit goes beyond the copy-editing kind of edit suggested in some answers, and in some situations it may work against "make things clearer".

One answer mentions "add a warning if the post is dangerous" but this is in the context of posts that give bad advice, and isn't a solution to the kind of scenario I'm talking about.

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    I'd go for #3 as well, best solution - get in before the google spider sees it.
    – W.O.
    Aug 20 at 3:45

1 Answer 1

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Yes, that is okay.

In When to redact revisions? the guidance to redact is:

[...] for excessive PII (Personally Identifying Information) so this can include real name, email address, physical address, employer etc. where it will have negative consequences.

Based on your description I would classify that as physical address. So by all means, start with option #3: Edit to remove the ability to obtain the physical address. Then notice which revision needs redaction and flag the post for moderator attention. Explain clearly why redaction is needed.

If you stumble on a site moderator in chat you might ask them to handle your recent flag. Do not link to the post in chat. It doesn't need more eyes.

Do note that Stack Exchange and Google are very good friends. If you hope that a post didn't get crawled yet, you'll be in for a surprise. Posts get indexed by Google at an alarming speed.

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  • Thanks, redacting edits is a good thought to further reduce risk. Aug 20 at 14:07

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