# Are users allowed to deanonymize other users?

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http://www.physicsoverflow.org/13966/protecting-anonymity?show=13966#q13966

we established that guaranteed anonymity is an important founding principle of PhysicsOverflow. The identity of users who want to stay anonymous must never be revealed by moderators.

But what about common users who deanonymize other users who want to stay anonymous? For example imagine the situation where two users have a strong diagreement and one of them "revenge-deanomynizes"  the other by revealing his identity. Should such things be allowed or tolerated?

Or more generally, should anonymity not only be protected against deanonymization by moderators or other users with special tasks, but more generally against deanonymization by common users (who happen to know the identity of another user) too?

If guaranteed anonymity should hold in this more general sense too, how do we protect it if a user/moderator tries to violate this principle by deliberately and/or maliciously revealing the identity of somebody else?

PS
Of course there is no way a user can find out the personal information of another user through PhysicsOverflow itself. The question is as to how we should treat a user who uses PhysicsOverflow as a de-anonymise another user from information gathered from elsewhere. Is simple deletion (of the comment) enough, or does any punitive action need to be taken?

PPS
An "anonymous user" is either a user who posts without logging in, or under a pseudonym without revealing their real name on the profile page in the "full name" or "About me" fields.

edited Nov 8, 2014

To be clear, there is no way a user can find out the personal information of another user through PhysicsOverflow itself. The question is as to how we should treat a user who uses PhysicsOverflow as a de-anonymise another user from information gathered from elsewhere. Is simple deletion (of the comment) enough, or does any punitive action need to be taken?

Oh yes, this is an important point I forgot to mention as to me it was obvious. Thanks.

It's also worth mentioning that an "anonymous user" is either a user who posts without logging in, or under a pseudonym without revealing their real name on the profile page in the "full name" or "About me" fields. For instance, I go by a pseudonym, but reveal my full name on my profile page, which makes me not anonymous.

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This is just how I would do it and others are encouraged to disagree, comment, and post better ideas as needed.

First, I think the principle of guaranteed anonymity only makes sense if we ensure that the identity of anonymous or pseudonymous users is never revealed as best as we can by anybody, be it moderators, other users with special tasks, or "common" users.

So if the identity of an anonymous/pseudonymous member does get revealed by another member of PhysicsOverflow , I think we should act in two steps if it is not obvious that the deanonymized member agrees with his identity being revealed.

• 1. Upon first sight if it is the first time, delete the deanonymizing comments/posts etc and warn the user that revealing the identity of an anonymous/pseudonymous fellow member is not appropriate on PhysicsOverflow. If the person who posted the revealing comments did it without bad intentions, he would agree on this and no further actions would be needed.
• 2. If the user who posted the revealing comments reposts new revealing comments repeatedly and insistently tries to deanonymize the other user, this can be considered to be an intentional violation of the principle of guaranteed anonymity on PhysicsOverflow. If a second warning is futile, the poster of the another's identity revealing comments should be suspended. Of course, this should then correctly be recorded in the public block-log.

This should hold concerning any member of PhysicsOverflow; be it a "common user", a moderator, an administrator, etc.

answered Nov 8, 2014 by (4,305 points)

I don't have an opinion regarding the part on blocking the user, but I must add that for moderators, moderatorship should be cancelled with the second warning.

I think intentionally and/or maliciously revealing the identity of another anonymous member of PO to do damage is a serious enough violation of the principles of PO to be block-worthy. Also, there might be cases where the poster of the revealing comments is so insistent in revealing the identity of the other member (for example by reposting the comments with a high frequency after each deletion), that the wrongdoing can not be stopped otherwise ...

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