Many users on this site use their real identity. So, via google or a linked website, it is usually easy to find the contact details of a fellow user. However, in cases when users wish -- for whatever reason -- to keep their identity secret, what is the protocol for private contact? (This is not a cryptography question, btw.)

This is somewhat related to the question on using actual names. Adding a private email function has its issues and one of these might be that it removes one less incentive for giving your true identity.

This question occurred to me while answering When should you say what you know?.

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    $\begingroup$ “(This is not a cryptography question, btw.)” I cannot help imagining that someone will post a cryptography question with exactly the same title on the parent site. :) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 27, 2010 at 13:59
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    $\begingroup$ By the way, lack of private messaging seems to be a deliberate choice. A request for it has been declined on Meta Stack Overflow: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/431/… $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 27, 2010 at 14:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Tsuyoshi: Hm... maybe it is a cryptography question after all. $\endgroup$
    – RJK
    Commented Oct 27, 2010 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Tsuyoshi: Delving further through that link (thanks!), I found the suggestion (meta.stackexchange.com/questions/431/…) for an opt-in shielded email function the most sensible, and still within the spirit of open and collaborative efforts. $\endgroup$
    – RJK
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 8:38

2 Answers 2


If people don't give their contact details, and if you don't want to answer publicly, then simply don't do anything. Don't worry about it. It's their fault and their loss.


Stack Exchange sites are focused on the learning and information aspect of Q&A, not the personal interactions of most social-networking sites. Any communications that are focused on solving the problem should not be conducted privately. Those interactions should be available to the benefit of everyone else. If the communication is of a more private or social nature... well, that's just not what the site is about.

There are no options to contact a user who does not wish to be contacted. If a user wishes to be contacted, they can leave that information in their public profile.

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    $\begingroup$ I wasn't asking if we could turn this site into the facebook or myspace of theoretical computer science. There are plenty of concrete academic- and research-related reasons (i.e. not the desire to poke or whatever they do on those other sites) why one may wanted to contact another user privately, one of which I referenced to in the question. $\endgroup$
    – RJK
    Commented Oct 27, 2010 at 17:08
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    $\begingroup$ It seems that the TCS site is a bit different than other stackexchange sites. I can imagine a question on modeling turning into a full-blown research project that the question poster might want to work on with, for example, the person who provided the best partial answer. This isn't a cooking site where questions can be answered quickly by a community, nor does it seem right that once a question is posed it shouldn't be "privately" worked on... $\endgroup$
    – Lev Reyzin Mod
    Commented Oct 27, 2010 at 22:04

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