Below each question and answer, there's a "Share" link that contains a URL to that question or answer. That URL also contains your user ID number. For instance:


In that link, "326528" is the identifier of the linked content, and "113306" is my user ID. The link works just as well without the user ID.

I understand from this question that the purpose of having the user ID in these Share links is to track users who post links on the wider internet and draw others into the SE network so they can be awarded the Announcer, Booster, and Publicist badges.

I just noticed this feature today, and as a mod on ELL, it occurred to me that in every mod message I've sent where I cited problematic questions or answers, I also unwittingly included my own user ID. This means that even though these mod messages were supposedly sent anonymously from "the mod team", it's trivial for the user receiving the message to trace them back to me personally by checking the trailing user ID.

There's obvious value in encouraging users to promote the site, but it's a problem that mods are unknowingly sharing their user IDs in mod messages. I realize we can just as easily fish a question URL from the address bar, but there's still issues:

  • Not all mods know about this issue
  • Not all mods who know about this issue will remember to anonymize their links
  • Expecting mods to remove our user ID each time is bad work flow

I'll leave the fix design to someone else, but I know this could be done in an intuitive and elegant way that allows users to continue earning those promoter badges, and which doesn't require all mods to know about this security hole, or remember about it each time, or to manually remove our user IDs from URLs in mod messages.

  • 5
    In the event that you're interested in a userscript solution for your personal use, Henry Ecker made a script recently that allows for an anonymity toggle: stackapps.com/q/9497/71135
    – Spevacus
    Nov 2, 2022 at 15:58
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    I found out which MSE mod sent me a message using the same method... Nov 2, 2022 at 16:03
  • @Spevacus That looks like a really nice fix, but it's a bit too techy for me. I hope something like that can be implemented.
    – gotube
    Nov 2, 2022 at 16:10
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    For what it's worth, the link in the mod message might not be from the person who sends the message. The mod might have copied the link from a report or another mod could have provided the link. Which really matters little if the recipient decides to retaliate in some fashion. I do agree that at least offering the option of anonymity should be standard. If not a profile setting you can toggle.
    – VLAZ
    Nov 2, 2022 at 16:13
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    The pop-up where you copy this link explicitly states that you're also copying your ID. The actual text is : "Share a link to this question (Includes your user id)".
    – Luuklag
    Nov 2, 2022 at 16:15
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    @Luuklag Perhaps "(Include your user id)" should be bold and "Share a link to this question" shouldn't be bold. Nov 2, 2022 at 16:17
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    @Luuklag Don't Make Me Think + it still requires having taken the "SE Arcana" elective to untangle which is which. Just because the text is there doesn't mean the design is good.
    – VLAZ
    Nov 2, 2022 at 17:44
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    @VLAZ I didn't mean to say the text is good, just that people shouldn't claim ignorance in this case.
    – Luuklag
    Nov 3, 2022 at 7:15
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    @Luuklag no, it's not right to accuse others of "claiming ignorance". It is a very wild known fact that users do not read all the information presented to them. By accusing others of "claiming ignorance", seems you've inadvertently claimed ignorance of very basic user behaviour. Are you claiming ignorance here? Should you be?
    – VLAZ
    Nov 3, 2022 at 7:23
  • @Luuklag If the information is in the UI, and a lot of people still don't know it or understand the implications, the UI needs improvement. Frankly, the share link should have a checkbox to add your user ID and not include it by default. The most privacy-preserving choice should ALWAYS be the default.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 3, 2022 at 15:15
  • @Luuklag also, it's only shown when clicking the link, not right-clicking and copying it directly. Nov 3, 2022 at 15:41
  • 3
    Does this answer your question? Do moderators need to remove their user ID from shared SE links in moderator messages in order to remain anonymous? (and its linked questions) Nov 3, 2022 at 15:44
  • 1
  • @MetaAndrewT.: I don't think this is a duplicate of that first question you linked, because that was a support question (basically asking whether the system does this already, with a then-staff member answering that it doesn't) – whereas this is a feature request. It's certainly related, though.
    – V2Blast
    Nov 3, 2022 at 17:42
  • @Luuk VLAZ, time to repurpose this sign to include general Internet tips.
    – Rob
    Nov 3, 2022 at 18:26