Now that Stack Exchange extends beyond the profesional Stack Overflow/Server Fault sites to hobby/interest sites should we be thinking about the amount and nature of personal information that is shown/shared by default?

My Stack Overflow account has my real name and location, real professional interests in the biography and is linked to my CV on Careers. There may be hobby/interest Stack Exchange sites that I don't want to be quite so intimately linked to my job.

I could make up a totally anonymous userid for those sites - but perhaps we should have some sort of wizard on linking a new Stack Exchange site asking what information to share, and a way of seeing exactly what another visitor can see about us?

Can we also have a way of associating/de-associating certain sites? At the moment the only option is to link/unlink all of them.

Edit: I think it's a legitimate concern that an IT professional Stack Overflow/Server Fault/Careers poster may be more aware of privacy, linking accounts and shared information than a 12-year-old posting to justinbeiber.stackexchange (something I know Jeff has planned). This might be a good time for Stack Exchange to consider the privacy implications of the current information sharing model, that's all.

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    'If there's something you don't want people to know about you, perhaps you shouldn't be doing it in the first place...' – Ivo Flipse Oct 25 '10 at 18:38
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    @Ivo - I read your post on embarrassing-rashes.stackexchange.com and I think I can recommend a good ointment. – user27414 Oct 25 '10 at 19:39
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    Related: Stop repeatedly auto-associating accounts on login!, which was about exactly this issue and [status-declined]. – Gnome Oct 25 '10 at 20:17

I recall Jeff talking in the past about "building your online brand". I was totally onboard with that at the time, but things are different now. We have sites for hobbies like cooking and video games, and sites for religion, politics, and name-your-hotbutton-issue are likely just around the corner.

Imagine if your boss found out you're an avid user of devilworship.stackexchange.com and it turns out he's on bornagain.stackexchange.com? Probably not good.

We need some separation between our professional and non-professional lives on SE.

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    Off-topic: belongs on devilworship.stackexchange.com is a great close reason. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Oct 26 '10 at 0:03
  • Joel Spolsky said something similar in podcast 25, 1 h 05 m 52 sec. In another podcast episode (I can't locate it now) there was also a statement about, at a minimum, create a LinkedIn profile to control the online presence. – Peter Mortensen Oct 26 '10 at 0:26

I'm surprised at the number of people taking the "if you're doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide approach". I agree with the OP that it would be rather useful to know that information is being shared across sites - that isn't explicitly clear when you link accounts - as confirmed by associating my SO account with Meta to make this post.

Yes, there is the work around of having different accounts. But, as the OP has noted, why follow Facebook's lead and share without a) making it clear to the user and b) having some extra options where appropriate?

I for one don't believe SO is doing anything nefarious, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.

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    When accounts are associated, isn't the interface explicit about asking which site your user profile should be copied from? – Ether Oct 25 '10 at 21:19
  • No, it isn't. You select your openID and from there it ties to SO. I have discovered under profile > accounts, you can copy different site profiles to other sites. For example, from Meta I can copy my Meta profile to SO. – BlackGaff Oct 26 '10 at 15:14

You are responsible for your online appearance.

There is nothing sneaky going on here. The only information that is visible is what is stated to be visible. No one is seeing some secret private part of your profile. SE doesn't force you to enter much detail that is public (though it rewards you for filling our your profile), nor does it check that the info is accurate, nor does it force you to associate your accounts. Make your choices appropriately.

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    The reward is for filling in all the fields - it doesn't check that it's accurate ;) – ChrisF Oct 25 '10 at 19:17
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    It's not SE's fault that your boss doesn't like what your doing in your own time – Ivo Flipse Oct 25 '10 at 19:43
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    Exactly - if you want to keep your personal and professional internet personas seperate (which is understandable) then it is your responsibility as a user to do that. There's a reason I have several different email addresses, and this is exactly the same principle. – DMA57361 Oct 26 '10 at 11:50

Either use a different OpenID for that site or don't associate the account with all the others when you sign up.

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    I can do that - I just think we should learn from facebook and prompt new users for what info is being shared rather than sharing everything by default. – Martin Beckett Oct 25 '10 at 19:13
  • You must use a different OpenID, otherwise they will be automatically associated. – Gnome Oct 25 '10 at 20:19

For the official record, our official privacy policy is at


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    I don't believe you that it's official. You didn't say official enough. – Jon Oct 25 '10 at 22:55
  • @jon unofficially, off the record? it's official. – Jeff Atwood Oct 26 '10 at 0:03

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