Notice: We will not mass-delete your posts

I’ve been getting an increasing number of requests over PM from users asking me to delete all of their posts. I just want to make it clear that I do not and will not honor these requests, though I will change your username, if requested, so your posts cannot be linked to you as easily. This is not a privacy issue (i.e., not dictated by GDPR) because your public posts do not constitute personal information.

We get a lot of these requests and if we honored them, the forum would no longer be useful, as there would be no context to any of the questions. It would just be a series of non sequitur answers, mostly from me.

You have the right to privacy, but that only extends to your private details (which we don’t keep, other than basic logging of IPs, etc. in your account, but these are not publicly accessible and we do not share them).

While this is not a legally binding document, this is the policy that other forums are taking with regards to one’s “right to be forgotten”:

Q: Is user generated content (UGC) personal data? Is UCG subject to rules around data portability and erasure?

A: This is a tricky one. What if a member asks that you delete all their posts? What if those posts were valuable both to the community and your company? We feel that if the posts are stripped of identifying information ( for example the username and photo of the member), they do not need to be removed. The exception here is if the posts contain information that identifies the person that is requesting removal. That would also include posts with personal data about the requester that was posted by another member. You might consider laying out in your terms of use or privacy policy who owns UGC and what will be done if someone requests removal of posted content.

I care very much about privacy, but that’s not what this is about. The forum is not a private help line, it is a public knowledge base (the public nature of a forum is indeed one of its defining features vs things like chat and email). For every question that is asked and answered here, dozens/hundreds/thousands of anonymous individuals search for and find those answers and benefit from them. Therefore, to ask for your posts to be deleted once you personally have derived your value from them is to deprive the commons of that value (while also dooming me to answer the same questions over and over).

If the request for mass deletion is truly about privacy (and not, say, reputation management, as many of these requests are), changing the username (and possibly avatar) should be sufficient to anonymize your posts.