Not to pick on any particular question, but I noticed this question doesn't appear to have anonymized:

  • an IP address from the server access log
  • the referer header
  • the domain name of the site being configured

Now, I should clarify that I don't think there's anything wrong with doing that, per se. The person who runs the site has the right to mention their site and post their logs. That's all fine. The OP should be allowed to do that if they want to for whatever reason.

However, I feel like there should be a community policy on this. Specifically, I feel like we should encourage anonymizing that kind of thing. Here are a few reasons:

  • If you're posting a question on here, you're often posting that question because something isn't working, or is behaving unexpectedly. So, by definition, whatever system you're talking about is misconfigured. That misconfiguration may be harmless, but it may well be exploitable. A default policy of asking people to obscure / change details which identify the machine(s) they're configuring (e.g. domain name, IP address) will keep them (and their users) protected without significantly affecting the quality of questions and answers.

  • Example addresses are available for most protocols (e.g. *.example.com for DNS, the subnet for IP), and situations like this are perfect opportunities to use those addresses.

  • Whoever owns that client IP address probably wouldn't want it arbitrarily posted. We have no reason to believe that person was being abusive, and their specific information almost certainly isn't relevant to the question at hand. Is it unethical to post their information? No. But it is impolite.

I feel like there's already an informal culture of being careful not to share anything too sensitive (like authentication tokens or HIPAA data), but it would be nice to have an explicit, unambiguous policy on information which may not be legally restricted but which it could be irresponsible to disclose. Partly because I feel like this is something that most people don't even think about at all, and once you post that information and realize you probably shouldn't have it's already too late (because the information cannot be removed; it remains available in the revision history and in the caches of sites which crawl and archive SE-network sites).

  • This is especially relevant to SF, but since it's also often relevant to SO, SU, and other technical SE sites, it may make more sense on the global meta.se . I'd be okay with it being moved there. Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 19:59
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    Have you read meta.serverfault.com/questions/963 ? Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 20:10
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    FWIW, we occasionally get requests to purge stuff like this after it's been in the wild for a bit (and occasionally after someone's gotten fired for it). Moderators have the ability to redact post history for use in extreme cases.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 20:11
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    @MichaelHampton I had not! None of my search terms found that easily. :P I guess my question's a dupe then. Sorry about that. Thanks, though! Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 20:20

1 Answer 1


My first thought about this is that people often anonymize really poorly, and in doing so, make it difficult or impossible for anyone else to understand what is going on. If people could be convinced to anonymize really well, then that would be great, but as you've no doubt seen, even asking people to formulate a decent, on-topic question here is challenging, let alone anonymizing correctly.

Second, site mods and SE staff have the ability to redact private information from a question or answer, even in the edit history of posts.

Third, oftentimes anonymizing at all makes it impossible to answer the question. This comes up most often in DNS-related questions where the DNS isn't behaving as the OP thinks it should be. For many of these, posting the actual domain in question can mean the difference between getting a fast, accurate answer in a very short amount of time, and going back and forth in ad nauseam in comments, everyone getting frustrated, and someone ragequitting the discussion.

To conclude, I don't think this is a big enough deal to have a community policy on. In instances where things should be anonymized, they can be (even retroactively), and in cases where not enough information is posted, comments to that effect are usually helpful.

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