Join 3,557 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

18 FAQ tagged with privacy


Why are you asking for my email? How do I change my email address?

You need to register a working email address in your profile. Please use a real address that you check. We will not spam you, and we will not give out your address. (Only site admins can see it; they can also see the email address you used when you signed up.) We use your profile email address to send password reset emails, reply to messages you send through the Contact Form, or contact you about specific site matters.

By default, your address is hidden from everyone else and not shown on your user-facing profile page. Only if you set your preferences to show it, will your email address show up in your profile -- and even then, it only shows to registered logged-in users.

Being contactable by other users can sometimes be advantageous. Many members use a semi-disposable address for MetaFilter only so that people can contact them. You can use MeFiMail for contacting other users and being contacted if you don't want to have a user-facing email address.

You can edit your email address and the rest of your profile details by clicking on the preferences link at the top or bottom of the page when you are logged in.
(tags: ) March 6, 2006 - permalink - back to questions

Can I have more than one account?

Having a second active account, known as a sock puppet, is generally discouraged outside of specific circumstances. MetaFilter allows users the use of sock puppets as a courtesy and only under specific circumstances. We expect you to have one main identity on the entire site; maintaining additional accounts with unique not-clearly-sock-puppet identities is not okay. Using a sock puppet account to harass other members or otherwise be an asshole on the site is not okay. Having more than one secondary active account (except for one-off joke accounts) is not okay. Here is a recent MetaTalk thread that discusses some specifics.

Some reasons people have sock puppet accounts:
- They want to "start over" with a Brand New Day - this is only okay if the new account is not causing the same problems as the old account. Please contact the mods if you are unclear on this.
- They want to ask an occasional question or give an answer in Ask MetaFilter that is not linked to their primary account
- They have a second account for making jokey comments (see usernames like baby jesus or Official Mefi Head Complainer)

It is against the rules to use a sock puppet to get around the time limitations for AskMe, MeFi and MeTa posts. People who do this will risk losing the sock puppet account, getting a time out on their main account and/or having their extra question or post removed. While moderators generally know which accounts are sock puppets, they will not reveal that information to users. That said, it is the responsibility of the user to maintain the privacy of that account if they want it to remain private. If your behavior with a second account is problematic, the mods will close that account if you do not curtail the problem behavior promptly yourself. Ask a moderator if you have questions about when it's okay to have a second account.
(tags: ) April 20, 2006 - permalink - back to questions

I want an account but I don't want to use PayPal. What do I do?

There is no official way to get an account without using PayPal. You can contact the mods if you want to try to work out alternate account payment arrangements.
(tags: ) December 26, 2006 - permalink - back to questions

Can I close or delete my account permanently or temporarily?

Yes; if you no longer want to be a part of the MeFi community you can close your own account. If you go to your profile page when you are logged in and click Edit Profile and scroll to the bottom you will see a link that says "Close Your Account." Clicking this will take you to an "Are you sure?" page. If you confirm, your account will be closed and you will be unable to log in, post, comment or access MeFiMail. Your existing posts and comments will remain. If you change your mind at a later date and want to reactivate your account, an admin can do it for you.
(tags: ) November 25, 2007 - permalink - back to questions

What profile fields are viewable by someone who is not a Metafilter member?

If you go to your preferences you'll see this note at the top of the page: "note: Items with a highlighted background are only shown to other logged-in members, and won't be seen by the general public or search engines." So most of what you enter there is only viewable by other members except for Full Name, Picture, Homepage URL, and Blurb about you. Email is only visible to members if you've elected for it to be so.

Please be careful bringing profile information over to the main part of the site where it can be indexed by Google. This MeTa comment discusses a little more about the ins and outs about what you should and shouldn't do with information you get from people's profile pages.
(tags: ) December 15, 2010 - permalink - back to questions

Can I publicly mention details from someone else's profile page?

Generally, no. User profile pages on MetaFilter are not indexed by Google. This means if someone's profile says that they live in a certain city or gives their real name, that information is not considered "public" on the site. More details here.
(tags: ) December 10, 2012 - permalink - back to questions

What should I know about privacy at Metafilter?

Moderators have access to your sign-up information and other information, such as your IP address. That information may be used for site purposes (such as checking out potential spammers), but it is kept strictly private from other members and the wider internet. This means that if you choose not to display your real name, email address or location to other members, moderators will not reveal it. Mods also will not reveal the identity of second (sockpuppet) accounts as linked to your main account if you do not reveal this.

Members are also expected to respect each other's privacy in certain basic ways. Members' profile page information is not visible to search engines and should not be brought over to the rest of MetaFilter. Similarly, copying and pasting MefiMail to any other part of the site without the writer's permission is a bannable offense.

In emergencies--cases where someone has threatened to harm themselves, or if we are contacted by law enforcement--we cannot guarantee user privacy. Likewise, the Anonymous question function in Ask Metafilter is only intended to keep your details anonymous from the MeFi community, not to provide absolute anonymity--see here for details.

Metafilter occasionally allows use of site data for academic study and there is an Infodump available for number crunchers. Users can download a copy of their site activity as a text file (see links at the bottom of your Preferences page).

Your posts, questions, and comments here are visible to the whole internet, and they will remain associated with your username permanently. If you need to ask about things that you want kept separate from your main username, you can get a second account that you use just for that.
(tags: ) December 12, 2012 - permalink - back to questions

How do I post an anonymous question in AskMe? Is there a function for anonymous follow-ups?

The anonymous posting form can be reached from the "New Question" page of AskMetafilter. When you use this form, your question goes into a queue that is only read by the admins. It will have to be approved, so it won't be posted immediately. Generally questions are approved (or not) within 48 hours. Not all anon questions will be posted, but most will. If you are wondering about a question you submitted a few days ago, it is fine to ask an admin about it.

Your posting is not linked to your username in any way in the MetaFilter database; anonymous questions are posted through the Anonymous user account. However, the admins can ascertain who posted the question if they need to. Anonymous questions are for basic privacy, not for hiding from Interpol. You can read more about how the AnonyMe mechanism works in this thread.

Questions about illegal activities are unlikely to be approved. Questions whose only answers are "see a doctor" or "see a lawyer" are unlikely to be approved. Questions about ordinary subject matter that doesn't seem to fit the needs of being anonymous may not be approved. Please do not ask questions about suicide or revenge. (If you are feeling suicidal, please seek in-person help. The ThereIsHelp page has a list of resources/hotlines.) We can not promise to keep your information confidential if we think you might harm yourself or others.

There is no mechanism for following up anonymously, but the admins will post a follow-up comment to an anonymous question for you -- use the contact form linked at the bottom right of each page to reach the admins. Other MeFi users are often willing to do this too. Sometimes people set up disposable email accounts so they can be contacted about an anonymous posting. This feature is not intended to provide absolute anonymity, please do not use it if that is what you require.

If you need to ask a question that's not associated with your main account, and you want to be able to follow-up by yourself, you are permitted to buy an extra "sockpuppet" account. Here are the guidelines about second accounts. We ask that people use the anonymous feature sparingly, not more than once or twice a year. If you feel you want to ask a number of questions separately from your main account, getting a second account may be a better solution.
(tags: ) March 6, 2006 - permalink - back to questions

Is there a way to turn a non-anonymous old question into an anonymous one?

We do have a way to anonymize old posts. Doing this does somewhat decrease the value of the questions to the community -- since people answered it with a user in mind and some answers may not make sense -- so it is not something we do lightly. However, we will anonymize old questions rarely, if it's important. Contact a mod if you want this done. Please do not ask questions under your real name that you plan to anonymize later.
(tags: ) March 28, 2008 - permalink - back to questions

What is the Infodump? Does Mefi release other data for study?

The Infodump is Mefi's regularly-updated published collection of site statistics. It includes a great deal of information about posts, comments, tags, categories, favorites, and user behavior concerning all of those. The Infodumpster was created and is run by user Combustible Edison Lighthouse. It is a convenient way to run searches on the information from the Infodump.

Mefi has also released the MetaFilter Corpus, a collection of linguistic information which can be used to find things out about how language is used on the site, and how that use has evolved over time.
(tags: ) December 12, 2012 - permalink - back to questions

What is the etiquette concerning members' or non-members' personal details and profile information?

User profile pages on MetaFilter are not indexed by Google. This means if someone's profile says that they live in a certain city or gives their real name, that information is not considered "public" on the site. Bringing a user's personal details into an unrelated thread to hector or harass them (especially details from other websites that they participate in) is generally considered not okay. Use care when deciding to bring someone's personal information into a thread, and try to err on the side of mentioning without linking.

Bringing WHOIS and other personal information into a thread [i.e. "Here's this guy's phone number!"] is also not okay. We harbor no illusions that this stuff isn't available, but bringing it into a thread can cause trouble for the site and creates an atmosphere that we'd rather avoid. When in doubt, please feel free to ask a mod.
(tags: ) August 20, 2009 - permalink - back to questions

How do I comment anonymously?

There is no anonymous comment function. If you want to add something to a thread but want it to remain unconnected to your account, you can use the contact form (bottom right of every page) to reach the moderators, and one of them can add it for you.
(tags: ) December 11, 2012 - permalink - back to questions

What is MeFi Mail?

MeFi Mail is a private messaging system for MetaFilter users and allows contact with users who may not have an email address in their profile. It is enabled by default but can be turned off in the profile editing area. Members can opt to have these messages sent directly to their profile email address.

There is a little envelope on the header bar of each page of MetaFilter, next to your username. The little envelope will turn orange when new messages are received. To check your Mefi Mail, click the envelope; it will take you to your Mefi Mail inbox.

To send someone Mefi Mail, go to their profile page by clicking their username. Members that have this option enabled will have a "send MeFi Mail" option visible on their profile page underneath their username that can be used to contact them.

Users can also opt to block MeFi Mail. Users who have blocked MeFi Mail can not send or receive MeFiMail and their profile page will say "MeFi Mail Disabled". To block Mefi Mail on a per-user basis, scroll to the bottom of a Mefi Mail from that user and click "Block this sender." If you have blocked a user and want to unblock them, you can do this from your contacts page at the bottom where it says "Manage blocked senders".

HTML cannot be used in MeFi Mail messages but URLs on a line by themselves will turn into hyperlinks. Banned or time-outed users cannot use or access MeFiMail.

Unless you have specific permission, reposting someone's MeFi Mail is a violation of site guidelines. Do not use MeFi Mail to harass or stalk other users. Abusing MeFi Mail in this way can result in your account being banned.
(tags: ) October 20, 2007 - permalink - back to questions

Why are you asking for my birthday?

This was a feature that some users had requested and it is totally optional. You can indicate your birthday [day/month/year or just year] and your age will appear on your profile to logged-in users. If you decide you no longer want to make your age/birthday visible you can revert to having no birthday showing. You can click on your birthday in your profile and see which members share your birthday.
(tags: ) April 10, 2008 - permalink - back to questions

How do I see if a user is online or not?

You can't. We don't have a feature in MetaFilter that will show when a user is online and using the site.
(tags: ) September 7, 2010 - permalink - back to questions

Why are you asking for my location?

It is entirely optional to give a location. If you give one, you will be able to use certain features that are location-based. These features include: seeing which other members live near you (you can specify a distance for "near"); getting a message if there is an IRL meetup scheduled near you; seeing how far away from you each job posting is in Jobs. Other members will also be able to see your location and see if you are "near" them.
(tags: ) December 12, 2012 - permalink - back to questions

What's up with banning? What does one see when they've been banned from MeFi?

Users who have been banned will not be able to log in to MetaFilter or access MeFiMail or their Recent Comments page. If they are already logged in, they will be unable to comment or post. There will be a small "this account has been disabled" notice on the user page of banned users.

If a user is already logged in, they will not be able to post or comment on the site. Banning is usually temporary, but sometimes permanent. Giving someone a "timeout" means their account has been banned for a short time.

Banworthy offenses include self-linking on MeFi, spamming the site with promotional links, abusing the site with excessive trolling comments or nonsense, excessive jokiness or snarkiness in AskMe, or over-the-top harassment or "outing" personal information of other users. Short term bans or timeouts automatically expire after a given amount of time.
(tags: ) March 6, 2006 - permalink - back to questions

Are flags anonymous?

Flags are not anonymous. Admins know which users are responsible for which flags.
(tags: ) April 9, 2007 - permalink - back to questions