Do we have a privacy problem when people try and leave the Mathoverflow community?

Due to my objections regarding MO I deleted my profile. While I understand not deleting my questions and answers, I expected the user information to be anonymized. I guess I must have logged in at some point as I was surprised to see a picture of myself as my avatar. I searched for my previous questions and answers. They appear to use user37691 for all of my old questions and answers. Tie user37691 to Daniel Geisler and most of my old information is recovered. That is a poor job of anonymizing the user.

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    $\begingroup$ The fact that the posts from a deleted account can be found is well-known - see, for example, here: Is there a way to check all questions/answers posted from a deleted account. However, you should probably clarify what you mean when you say this: "I was surprised to see a picture of myself as my avatar". I do not see your avatar anywhere at the post posted from the old account (i.e., user37691). $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps if you have a custom avatar, then to delete it you will need to go to gravatar.com and delete it there. Or change to some other avatar. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak I see the profile under the profile of Daniel Geisler. I suggest that there be a link on the delete profile page to the article you listed. Gerald Edgar, I'm not concerned with the ability to remove the avatar, I'm concerned with MO remembering what the avatar was. $\endgroup$
    – user477396
    Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 13:29

1 Answer 1


On Meta Stack Exchange there is a rather detailed post explaining (among other things) what happens if an account on a Stack Exchange site is deleted: How can I delete my account?

In this specific case, I would like to stress that you're talking about two different MathOverflow accounts.

As you've mentioned in your post, you used to have an account on MO with the userid 37691. As you can check, the page the profile of this account use to be shown returns 404: https://mathoverflow.net/users/37691/daniel-geisler. (However, you can find an old version in the Wayback Machine.) If needed, you can also find posts from that account. However, the old account was removed, the posts posted from that account do not show your username or your photo.

Now you have another account with userid 477396. If you check your account on the main site, you can see that you have created this account on February 19. (See the date shown on the screenshot below.)

The only activity I see on that account is one answer and one comment. The answer was posted on February 19 - so my guess would be that you probably created the account when you posted that answer. (Of course, there is an option to post answers and questions anonymously - you could have done that if that's what you prefer.)

The avatar and username of the newly created account are fully under your control. Since the account is associated with the accounts you have on other Stack Exchange sites, naturally, also the gravatar is the same. (So it's not really correct to say that "MO remembered the avatar" - this was the picture you used when creating the new account.)



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