I asked this in the tavern. I need to ask a question anonymously as my profile is pretty much traceable to me.

I've been told that logging out and asking the question will do. However I'm worried that when I log in again the question will be re-associated with my account.

I'm not worried about reputation but more that it reflects on people in real life I know indirectly and I don't want to offend them.

Is it sufficient to just log out and ask the question?

Edit 1: clarification added in comments. I don't think any of the people concerned are members of these sites but they are readers. What I wouldn't like is for someone to see a situation similar to the one they're in, combined with my username, my email address on my profile, my location. Pretty much means that if someone were to see the question they'd know it was about them. That's what I don't want.

Edit 2: Morality I want to make it clear if this is against the rules I won't do it. I'm quite happy to let the mods know it was me who made the post. I won't be upvoting it either.

You've all been great telling me How to do this but just like Kragen I'd like an official nod to go ahead. I don't know whether this behaviour is bannable, discouraged, encouraged (as I'm trying to prevent hurting people's feelings) or otherwise.

Secondly I'm not worried about them trying to track me down, just an accidental spot. So long as it doesn't have my username, which let's face it would be recognised directly connected to the post, I'm happy.

  • Anonymously to whom? Moderators?
    – YOU
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:00
  • 9
    To the whole world. Forget the moderators :) Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:01
  • @YOU I don't think any of the people concerned are members of these sites but they are readers. What I wouldn't like is for someone to see a situation similar to the one their in, combined with my username, my email address on my profile, my location. Pretty much means that if someone was to see the question they'd know it was about them. Thats what I don't want.
    – Wes
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:07
  • I see @Wes, to be more safe, create new email account, and use it when you got asked when posting question
    – YOU
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:10
  • For the record, user merge is never automatic, it's only instigated by moderators or Team members. Anonymous or otherwise, logging out to post still presents a separate user.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:19
  • one note: if someone (other than moderators) is tricky enough to track you, they can put a dummy images on their server and track suspected posts of you, and can check IP there.
    – YOU
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:25
  • You may get the "official word" posted here, but I think the question I link to in my answer should be sufficient. If not, go through the podcast and find the one where they talk about why the site allows anyone to post a question - anonymity is built in to the site by design. Also, peruse the [anonymous] and [privacy] tags for more information and examples of where people did this and it was fine.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:48
  • @Adam thats good enough for me. I appreciate the time you've taken to write up a good answer.
    – Wes
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 19:03
  • 4
    Question to SE team, Why can't stack exchange provide an "Anonymous" checkbox (like eg: Quora) so that we can stay logged into our accounts and keep track of the answers and follow on the comments? Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 5:38
  • @Anand I'd raise that as a seperate question by now.
    – Wes
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 10:10
  • 1
    meta.stackexchange.com/q/281223/334982 already -2 😀 Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 14:44
  • Why not use Incognito Mode (Private Browsing)?
    – Welz
    Commented Feb 25, 2018 at 13:27
  • @WELZ see edit 2
    – Wes
    Commented Feb 25, 2018 at 21:02

5 Answers 5


Testing shows that logging out will work on those sites that allow posting without creating an account first. Here's the process I followed to test it:

  • Hover over username, click logout
  • Log out of all sites (don't know if this is important, but one can't be too sure)
  • Post question
  • Log out again (it created a temporary cookie-based account - you need to log out of this account to make sure the question isn't associated with anything)
  • Log back in

The question posted does not associate with any registered account. As a safety measure in case the unregistered account gets merged with your main account, email the team and request that the post be dissociated from that account.

The test question I added was:

How to create a display for OS X?

Feel free to answer it.

Note that the stack overflow logs could indicate that you posted it, but it won't be shown publicly. You can't use this to escape notice from Stack Exchange, but you could use this to escape notice from the rest of the world.

If you wanted to be doubly sure, clear your cookies and your HTML5 stored data cache.

Lastly, you are fine posting questions anonymously. It's not against the rules as long as you aren't abusing the site or trying to get around a site restriction. In this case you are welcome to do so.


Once you post the question, SO creates a temporary account for you which is associated only by your cookies. If you log out of this, you cannot edit your question, or comment on it as the original anonymous poster.

If you need to follow up on the question (and you should, if it's important to you!) then you should either:

  • fully create a new account with a new openid so you can deal with it later
  • don't log out of the new account until the question is answered to your satisfaction and you've accepted an answer

You can accomplish the second more easily by downloading a new browser (if you use chrome, get Firefox, if you use Firefox, get chrome) and using that exclusively with the new account until you are done, or create a new user in your browser (which, on most OS's, requires a new user for your computer).

Private browsing should also work, however, again, you'll lose access to the anonymous account once you eat your cookies, and won't be able to interact without going through the same process again, and won't be able to accept and answer in any case.

The official word

Jeff has explained elsewhere that posting anonymously is permitted by design. Here's one post where a user asked about how to log out of an anonymous account (which is now easier) is here:

How do I logout from a non-registered account?

Note that Jeff does not whip the user for posting anonymously, and in fact gives the information requested.

I suspect you'd have to visit the podcast archives to hear him say it more clearly.

You will not get in trouble for posting anonymously. The only time you are not allowed to do that is if you are doing it in order to abuse the site or break the rules. This is not one of those cases.

  • No email address needed when you post the question as anonymous?
    – YOU
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:14
  • @You Yes, but it isn't verified. I used my gmail email with a salt so the hash gives a generated gravatar, and if the admins or mods need to contact me the email will still work. It'll be practically impossible for someone to determine my email from the hash, but of course SO knows it. You can enter an invalid or one-time email there as well and the question will still be posted.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:16
  • When trying to clear the HTML5 Local Storage, don't use Safari...
    – Arjan
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:23
  • 1
    @Arjan wow. Well, fortunately you don't have to clear HTML5 storage for this method, I've only included that as an option for those who are very paranoid. Logging out is enough.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:26
  • 5
    You can get another seperate session on Chrome Incognito mode too.
    – YOU
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:26
  • 2
    Cookie-based accounts can be restored if the email address is valid: stackoverflow.com/users/account-recovery
    – Arjan
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:45
  • 1
    -1, I am able to circumvent your anonymous account by looking at your comment where you imply that you are the question asker. Privacy shattered. Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:48
  • @Daniel Yes, but the question was posted anonymously, and as long as I don't make any mistakes it's going to be anonymous forever. The test was simply to show that it's possible, not that you can't mess it up by stupidity. Trust me. You will NOT be able to find the questions I've truly posted anonymously, nor, if you came across one, would you be able to figure out it was me. But feel free to try.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:49
  • 3
    @Adam yeah I was kidding ;) Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 18:01
  • 3
    @Daniel See, that's the problem with sarcasm detectors. They don't tell you when they're broken!
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 18:31
  • Or you can open the browser in incognito mode (for Chrome and Firefox) and then post your question. With this approach, you don't have to log out and log in.
    – Omar Tariq
    Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 19:21
  • 'As a safety measure in case the unregistered account gets merged with your main account, email the team and request that the post be dissociated from that account.' Or you could just delete your unregistered account.
    – CPlus
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 16:20
  • Am I missing something or is this just out of date? When I try to post a question without being logged into an account I get "You must be logged in to ask a question on Meta Stack Exchange". So it seems that most of this answer doesn't apply anymore.
    – Kvothe
    Commented Sep 13, 2023 at 13:29
  • @Kvothe - The feature has been removed, and questions can only be submitted with the creation of a new account. Check the site policy to determine whether additional accounts for a single user are allowed for this purpose. I've edited the answer.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 16:43
  • @Pollyanna no, it was not removed. It just applies to less sites these days, i.e. many sites require login indeed, but some still allow posting as a "guest" aka unregistered user. For example Lifehacks, open this link in Guest/Incognito mode and you'll see. Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 18:29
  1. Log out
  2. Ask the question
  3. Don't use your same email address or your Gravatar will be the same!
  4. Clear your browser's cookies
  5. Log back in

I haven't tried it, but if you do that I can't imagine any way in which it will be associated with your account.

If SO has the ability to allow a user to register after asking a question, then it would be accomplished through a session cookie that is still alive when registration happens. It would be this same ability which would cause the problem you are worried about. Clear the cookies, and that feature is thwarted.

Edit to your edit about the appropriateness of this practice:

AFAIK it is explicitly encouraged to use an alternate account for the purpose of posting questions that for what ever reason, internally or externally, would be a bad idea to associate with your main account. Just don't cross-vote.

Links: Jeff said (over a year ago), it's not at all against the rules, but would be frowned upon to create accounts just for the sake of it, since he could see no good reason for it. However, Grace Note points out a couple reasons in addition to yours for doing so.


These should be combined; ordered by increasing level of paranoia:

  • Anonymize the posted content (that one should be default for any public data - posting "I am root at with password letmein" is asking for trouble anyway, but things like e-mail headers can give you away; also don't reuse your nickname or e-mail address when posting anon)
  • Use a different browser which doesn't store your browsing habits - there are builds that you don't even need to install, just launch them off a flash disk: http://www.srware.net/en/software_srware_iron_download.php
  • Use a different connection - post from a wifi cafe or a public network (e.g. library)
  • Use TOR - this will make you appear to be in a completely different place (however TOR nodes may be blocked on some sites)
  • Attempt to change your posting style (I admit that this borders on clinical paranoia).

These, when combined, should give you at least some peace of mind.

  • 5
    Don't forget to change your fingerprints!
    – Nicole
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 19:49
  • @Renesis: That, too :D Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 19:54
  • To use Tor, you do have to log in or create an account. And either one does require an e-mail that you are able to receive. But there are plenty of places to get free one-time accounts. These would be traceable if someone were determined enough, but would be anonymous to the accidental notice mentioned in the question. There is something that doesn't work with Tor, but I have forgotten what it is. Logging in does work. I did not try to create an account today.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 0:34
  • @WGroleau: Improbable. I'm thinking that you a) have found something that impersonates Tor Onion Routing, or b) you are mistakenly trying to register for the bugtracker. Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 7:10
  • Wasn't bug tracker. If it was a fake Tor Browser, it was a clever fake. And I got an e-mail acknowledging whatever was the issue. Hmmm, maybe I still have that e-mail.... Nope. Wish I could remember. It wasn't log in; that does work.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 4:04

I'm interested to hear the official verdict on this, however its worth pointing out that to be sure that your post isn't associated to your account the best method would be to ask the question from another web connection, for example:

  • At a web cafe
  • From public wi-fi with private browsing enabled
  • Via a web proxy

Another option is to temporarily install and use another browser. This won't share any cookies, HTML5 storage or temporary internet cache with your primary browser so should be a pretty sure-fire way of ensuring that the two don't intermingle.

  • 3
    Same thing as using Chrome's private browsing window.
    – Nicole
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:21
  • 1
    @Renesis - yup, in theory ;-)
    – Rob
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 17:22

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