20 FAQ tagged with privacy

Can I get an old comment deleted that has sensitive information in it?

Sure. Let us know what comments need attention via the Contact Form. We will work with you to either edit or remove past comments that have information that you consider problematic.
(tags: ) July 17, 2020 - permalink - back to questions

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

You need to have a working email address in your profile. Please use a real address that you check. We will not spam you, and we will never give out your address. We use your profile email address to send password reset emails, reply to messages you send through the Contact Us form, and to contact you directly about site/participation issues.

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 logged-in members.

Many members use a semi-disposable address for MetaFilter only so that people can contact them. You can also use MeFi Mail 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? Can I change accounts?

The guiding principle here is that we expect you to have one main identity on the entire site, at a given time. It's not okay to pretend to be multiple people. Lots of detail in this MetaTalk post.

Changing to a new primary account:
- If you need to move to a new account name, it is okay (in most cases) to open a new account and close the old one. Some people choose to note on their userpage who they used to be, but it's not required. Note, this kind of account switch was allowed as a courtesy for people who felt strongly that their old name wasn't okay anymore, but it should not be abused. Contact the mods if you have questions.
- Some previously banned users may be allowed to open a Brand New Day (BND) account. 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.

Second accounts:
Having a second active account (known as a sock puppet) is generally discouraged, but is allowed as a courtesy for two purposes:
- Privacy, for example asking an occasional question on a sensitive topic or giving an answer in Ask MetaFilter that is not linked to your primary account
- Jokey comments from clearly one-off joke accounts, for example usernames like baby jesus or Official Mefi Head Complainer

It is against the rules to use a sock puppet account:
- to get around the time limitations for AskMe, MeFi and MeTa posts. The time limits are per-person, not per-account.
- to harass other members or otherwise be an asshole on the site
- to comment with more than one account in a single thread, hop between accounts arbitrarily, or otherwise appear to be using multiple accounts to seem like two separate people

Violating the rules for spare accounts is grounds for banning the spare account and potentially your primary account as well. While moderators generally know which accounts are sock puppets, we 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. Contact a moderator if you have any doubts about appropriate use of 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 self-serve way to get an account without using PayPal. However, you're welcome to contact the mods to help you set up an account manually if you want 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, 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 MeFi Mail. Your existing posts and comments will remain. If you change your mind at a later date and want to reactivate your account, a moderator can do it for you.

If you need to completely delete your account for privacy or safety reasons, Metafilter can accommodate you. Please be aware that this is a harm reduction strategy; Metafilter's content is regularly scraped/reproduced elsewhere on the internet and deleting the original will not remove copies outside our control.

To get your account deleted:

- Use the Contact Us form to request an account deletion
- We will run the process within approximately 48 hours and notify you when it's done
- Currently, AskMes and IRL posts are made completely inaccessible; comments become completely inaccessible; FPPs and other subsite posts are deleted in the Metafilter-specific sense, i.e. they're not easily discoverable but they're still accessible by direct link.
- If personal/identifying information exists in one of those other posts, please specify and we can make it inaccessible manually.
- Deleted accounts will remain closed. Users who request an account deletion may continue to use the site with a new account. If you have further concerns, we will be happy to discuss a safety plan with you.

There are other privacy solutions available to you as well, including secondary accounts, individual comment/post deletion, and the minimal profile option

(tags: ) November 25, 2007 - permalink - back to questions

Who can see the information on my profile page? What's the "minimal" profile option?

Short answer: profiles are mostly visible to the public, but non-indexed (that is, not "visible" to search engines like Google). Your Full Name, Picture, Webpage, and Blurb are visible to the public, and by default the profile-page listings of your comments and posts and contacts are too.

Among the user-editable parts of the profile page (where you choose what information to enter), the visible-to-the-public items are those under "Personal Info":

  • Full Name
  • Picture
  • Homepage URL
  • and Blurb about you
  • and optionally, Social Apps

The visible-to-members-only items are:

  • Email (required; private by default, but you can choose to make it visible to members)
  • Location
  • Geographic Coordinates (members-only by default, but you can choose to make them private)
  • Occupation
  • Gender
  • Relationship Status
  • Birthday
  • IM
  • Social Apps (you can choose whether to make Social Apps visible to the public or members-only; older accounts default to 'public', new accounts default to 'members only')

The members-only fields have a dark background on the Preferences page to make it easier to remember which they are. Except for Email, all the user-editable fields are optional, so for maximum privacy you can simply leave them blank. For email, you must include a working email for moderators to reach you at, but it's only displayed on your profile page if you choose.

Among the site-generated parts of the profile page, everything is visible to the public by default:

  • Join date
  • Funding message (unless you choose to hide it)
  • Listings of your Contributions (posts and comments)
  • Favorites
  • Social connections (contacts)
  • Tags

With the "Minimal Profile" option, members can hide the profile-page listings of Contributions, Favorites, Social connections, Funding Message and Tags from logged-out readers. To do this, check the "Minimal profile for non-members?" option under "Contact / Privacy Preferences". Note: this doesn't hide your actual posts and comments themselves - those remain visible to anyone on the internet. It only hides the listings on your profile page, and only hides them from non-members.

To illustrate the difference between Standard and Minimal options, here's a standard MetaFilter profile page, as seen by a non-member (or logged-out user):

Here's the same profile, again as seen by a non-member (or logged-out user), but now with the "Minimal profile" option checked:

Regardless of what's visible to human readers, Metafilter profile pages are set to be "non-indexed", which means reputable search engines will not make their contents searchable. For this reason, please don't bring profile information over to the main part of the site, where it can be indexed by Google; doing so is potentially a bannable offense. 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, unless you've gotten their explicit permission to do so. 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 exposed to search engines and should not be considered "public" on the rest of the site which search engines are allowed to catalogue. For more info, see this FAQ entry on profile page etiquette.
(tags: ) December 10, 2012 - permalink - back to questions

What should I know about privacy at Metafilter?

Please check our formal Privacy Policy which addresses points commonly raised in privacy laws.

And here is some more informal general info about social privacy expectations on our site. Moderators generally have access to identity info (your sign-up information, name, email, IP address, etc) that is used for site purposes such as preventing spam or other forms of account abuse. That info is kept private from other members and from the wider internet. We don't sell or rent or share user information to outside parties. 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 (such as location) is not visible to search engines and should not be brought over to the rest of MetaFilter. Similarly, copying and pasting Mefi Mail to any other part of the site without the writer's permission is a bannable offense.

On your own profile page, most information is optional to include, such as full name, email address, etc. Although it's not indexed by search engines, by default most of the information you share there is still publicly viewable, displayed to everyone including non-members. Links to your post and comment history, your contacts, and your favorites, are also displayed to everyone by default. You can choose not to share personal info on that page, and you can choose the "minimal profile" option to hide the links to your post and comment history, contacts, and favorites, from non-members. Much more detail on profile privacy settings.

On the site as a whole, your participation here is public. Your posts, questions, and comments are visible to the whole internet, and they will remain associated with your username permanently. Please think ahead about your own privacy needs, before posting personal information. 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. If you shared some privacy-sensitive info (such as your email address or location) in a comment in the past and now need that deleted, please contact us.

In emergencies--such as 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 public site data for academic study and there is an Infodump of public site data available for number crunchers. Members can download a copy of their comments on Metafilter, MetaTalk, and Ask Metafilter as a text file (see links at the bottom of your Preferences page).

As with anything here: if you have questions, just ask us.
(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 a the regular "New Question" page of AskMetafilter. When you use this form, your question goes into a queue that is only read by the moderators. 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, you can contact the moderators to ask about it.

Your posting is not linked to your username 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 from the Mefi userbase, 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 commenting anonymously, but the admins will post a follow-up comment to your 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, however it is not something we do lightly. 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

Why are you asking for my pronouns?

The Profile page has a place to specify your pronouns. You can use this field (click here for the edit form) to let people know what pronouns to use for you on the site -- for example, "she", "he", "they" or other terms. It's freeform, but please only use it for real answers, not jokes. (Joking about pronouns, even if it's well-intended, can feel dismissive of other people. Please use the Contact Us form if you see a problematic entry in this field.)

Specifying your pronouns is optional and it’s ok to just leave this blank. The info you enter will be visible on your profile page to logged-in members only, but people may naturally use your pronouns in conversations on public parts of the site. You can check another member's profile (by clicking their username) to see if they've stated a pronoun preference.

Some history of this field: The Pronouns field is new in 2020. It replaces the old Gender/Pronouns field. Originally the field asked only for "Gender", then in 2017 "Pronouns" was added to the prompt. But many members don't update their profile, and might have made jokey answers in the Gender field originally. Over time, a lot of those answers aged badly or were out of place as an answer to the updated prompt. In 2020, we decided to eliminate that old field entirely and start over.
(tags: ) May 11, 2017 - 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. Some profile page information is visible to humans on the wider internet, it's just not indexed by search engines. See here for details.

Bringing WHOIS and other personal information into a thread [i.e. "Here's this guy's phone number!"] is also not okay. We know it's still one click away, but bringing it into a thread can cause trouble for the site. 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 Us form to reach the moderators, and one of them can add it for you. (If instead you want to ask an anonymous question on Ask Metafilter, the procedure is here.)
(tags: ) December 11, 2012 - permalink - back to questions

What is MeFi Mail?

MeFi Mail is a private messaging system for MetaFilter users which 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 also opt to have these messages forward to their email address listed in their preferences. There is an envelope icon on the header bar of each page of MetaFilter, near your username. The envelope will show a red number (in the Modern them) or turn orange (in the Classic theme) when you have new unread messages. To check your MeFi Mail, click the envelope to visit your 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 which can be used to contact them.

Users can also opt to block MeFi Mail. Users who have blocked MeFi Mail cannot send or receive MeFi Mail and their profile page will say "MeFi Mail Disabled". To block all MeFi Mail in this way, go to your Profile editing page, and under Contact/Privacy Preferences, check "Opt-out of MeFi Mail". To block MeFi Mail only from a specific user, 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 MeFi Mail.

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 or spam other users. Abusing MeFi Mail in this way can result in your account being banned. Moderators can access MeFi Mail but will only do so in cases of harassment or spamming complains.

MeFi Mail is intended for basic conversation, not as a replacement for a full-fledged email system. For more extended or full-featured conversations, your best bet is to exchange email addresses with someone.
(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. MetaFilter doesn't automatically disclose that information about members. Moderators can only see the last time a member visited the site, not whether a member is currently online.
(tags: ) September 7, 2010 - permalink - back to questions

Why are you asking for my geographic coordinates?

It is entirely optional to give your geographic coordinates in your profile. If you give a longitude and latitude, you will be able to use certain features that are geolocation-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 In Real Life (IRL) meetup scheduled near you; seeing how far away from you each job posting is in Jobs. You can choose whether other members will also be able to see your location by selecting 'Available to Members' or 'Private' in the Geographic Coordinates section of your site preferences.
(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 MeFi Mail or their Recent Comments page. If they are already logged in, they will be unable to comment or post. There will be a small "account is closed" notice on the user page of banned users. If a user has received a short term timeout, there will be no "account is temporarily closed" banner.

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. (See the Metafilter Community Guidelines and Content Policy for more explanation, too.) Short term bans or timeouts automatically expire after a given amount of time (24 hours or 1 week).
(tags: ) March 6, 2006 - permalink - back to questions

Are flags anonymous?

Flags are not anonymous. Users cannot see what has been flagged or by whom, but the moderation team can see which users are responsible for which flags.
(tags: ) April 9, 2007 - permalink - back to questions