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Ask HN: Why can't I delete my HN account?
95 points by helsinki on Apr 22, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 68 comments
I would like to continue using the service, but I have no interest in maintaining my account. Why is account deletion not an option?

On a related note, I'm annoyed at sites that typically let you delete your own content, but it's possible for you to get blocked from seeing it and then you can't remove it any more.

For example, if you post or comment in a Facebook group and then leave it, you can't remove those comments. Same if you comment on someone's post and they then block you.

On Reddit if you post in a private sub or a gold-only sub and later don't have access you can't delete or access it. I think you should at the very least be able to see your own content at any point, and if deleting is typically allowed you should be able to delete your own content.

Similarly if you delete your reddit account but don’t spend the time to delete all your posts and comments before you do, they won’t go away.

Deleting a comment on reddit also doesn't delete the content. For that to happen you first need to edit it to be blank, then remove it.

Can't edit comments over 6 months old or so

There is an unofficial FAQ by Jacques Mattheij, with an answer to this very question:


There is also indeed the official FAQ:


Yes but times have changed and I think, depending on where you live in the world perhaps, that there is a growing expectation that you should be allowed to delete your digital tracks.

There's a certain level of hubris to an attitude in which a given site that feels it's needs are more important than users.

Saying you can't delete all your posts/account is the same as saying "you do not have the right to control your own posts here".

I think it should be OK on HN to delete all your comments on your account if you want. I appreciate that this would degrade the quality of impacted historical comment threads but hey that's the price for giving people back control over their digital lives.

It happens on Reddit and whilst every now and then I encounter a reddit thread with deleted items, in general it has not destroyed reddit, and I respect the right of those users to have deleted their digital comments.

I rate respect for user wishes over the importance of maintaining historical threads integrity on HN.

There's a certain level of hubris to an attitude in which a given site that feels it's needs are more important than users.

There's even more hubris in expecting individual rights to outweigh the value of a community in every instance.

By "community" do you mean the website forum operated by Y Combinator Management LLC? That's some hubris.

How is deleting your digital tracks possible? What about crawlers and archives? Getting them all to delete stuff at anyone's whim seems an undue burden to me.

Who signed up for the account, typed out the post, and clicked Publish?

What do you think about people in real life who will never forget something that you said or did, even after you no longer like it.

I think it's just being an adult.

I believe the gpdr demands it be possible, at the cost of severe penalties if it’s not done.

As to how far they’ll go, they’ve threatened companies with billion dollar fines if they don’t delete references to crimes.

Being an adult, I believe, includes following the law.

So deleting references to crimes is following the law?

What are your thoughts on individuals being able to delete their account, with comments remaining attributed to a "[deleted]" username?

That doesn't give the users the ability to delete their comments, which under some circumstances they want to.

Removing attribution to a username is not the same as deleting what was said.

> which under some circumstances they want to.

Right, and the flipside is that not being able to delete comments makes people think a bit more carefully before posting, which improves the quality of the comments and the site.

It could also be argued that comment quality could be improved by allowing people to delete comments at any time, not just for 2 hours after creation of that comment.

People should be allowed to look back on a discussion and say "hmmm.... seems an ill considered and negative comment, I'm going to delete it".

As it stands, an ill considered comment is set in stone after 2 hours.

> It could also be argued that comment quality could be improved by allowing people to delete comments at any time

Ok, but what's the argument? What specific incentive for good comments or disincentive for bad comments is there with such a system? If anything, there's no disincentive for ill considered comments because you can always come back at any time to clean up your bad behaviour, but in the moment of commenting, there's nothing holding you back. Compare that with:

> As it stands, an ill considered comment is set in stone after 2 hours.

Which is a clear disincentive for making ill considered comments. Having such a system in place certainly makes me consider my comments more carefully before posting.

Ah, great. Thank you. I would delete this post if I could, but that is also not an option.

Sounds like the correct response then is to start sending DMCA requests?

I also always wondered why is there no option to delete submissions and comments?

That is an awfully exposing experience IMO.

You have the opportunity during the first two hours of them being submitted, unless there's a response to them, if I remember correctly.

Being exposing is a bit of a benefit for HN, in that it's a very good way to serve as a snapshot of culture at any given time. People can't just whitewash their histories or wrong actions on HN.

The proponents of the EU's right to be forgotten would like to have a word about that.

HN doesn't enforce real names so it's rather different.

From a legal standpoint, I don't think it makes a lot of difference. Especially since unless you are specifically trying to make a throwaway, figuring out who you are is trivial, especially if you use a chunk of your RL name in your username. Or in my case, if your username is commonly identifiable as you and tied to your RL name on other sites.

I don't think anything about Right To Be Forgotten leaves it to the individual's responsibility to mask their identity.

From a legal standpoint, HN doesn't sell products, use user data for profit, or operate in the EU. Both it and YC have made it rather clear they don't want to touch the EU.

Complying with GDPR would basically be an act of goodwill more than anything, and even that's debatable.

Both it and YC have made it rather clear they don't want to touch the EU.

Not sure where you are getting that. YC have funded a lot of EU companies, and some partners are from the EU.

YC certainly has revenue (from investors). HN isn't some separate legal entity - it's right there in the domain name.

They require every founder to come to the US and register as a US company. That's not particularly touching it.

Unless they IP ban the whole of the EU, they will still be subject to the GDPR once any EU citizen accesses their site. (Which, agreeing with AmericanChopper, is a purely theoretical thing - until the moment where YC wants to conduct any kind of business in the EU)

Simply being accessible from the EU does not automatically mean the GDPR applies to a site. See Recital 23: https://gdpr-info.eu/recitals/no-23/

Ah, that's a fair point, I didn't see that.

“Not touching the EU” is a meaningless phrase.

If they raise money from any limited partners in the EU it’s pretty easy to make a case they have an EU business. The physical location is irrelevant - that’s the whole point of the GDPR.

I think you mean from an enforceability standpoint. From a legal standpoint, GDPR applies to all EU ‘data subjects’, and HN would be in breach of it if they don’t provide EU ‘data subjects’ with their rights under the GDPR.

I've had a comment deleted long after I posted. I had to email them. I'm sure they'll delete your account if you do the same. I don't know why they make you contact them though.

No they will actually refuse to delete your account as well. They did however present the option of renaming the account, but then it turned out that's not possible either.

The policy is explained quite clearly right here:


The internet is forever.

> I would like to continue using the service, but I have no interest in maintaining my account.

Just do "logout"

> Why is account deletion not an option?

Because, each submission & comments posted by you should be stored for historic reason - somebody already bookmark or quote it.

Think, HN has something like "Hemingway Mode"[0], there also related XKCD[1].

[0] https://blog.ghost.org/hemingway-mode/

[1] https://xkcd.com/1540/

The can have all my posts they like - but that's no reason to also store my email address and force me to secure/manage the password of an account that I never intend to use again.

I agree with you. However as a workaround in the meantime what you may be able to do is:

1. Change the email address to a disposable one. There's so many services, no way HN can prevent you doing this.

2. Update the password to a unique, complex password. Store it or don't, your choice.

3. Walk away from the account.

Even then the password and/or throwaway address could be leaked in the next data breach - which in the worst case could allow all kinds of trolls to access my account and impersonate me without me having a way to recover it or lock them out. So of course I'd have to store my password.

As for your password, just change it to the result of fingerpainting on your keyboard.

If I want to keep other people from accessing the account then it's irrelevant whether or not I know the password.

Since the HN crowd seems to strongly support GDPR, how is this in line?

I've seen a lot of dislike for GDPR more than anything. Despite that, there are a few reasons why it's "in line."

It's a public forum, and having a historical record publically available to all users is somewhat mandatory to serve as an effective one.

It prevents linkrot, which is something particularly severe everywhere else.

Above all of that, HN doesn't sell data or really keep anything beyond what you've said - they don't even sell ads. It's more an archive than real 'social media.'

One of the main purposes of the GDPR is link rot.

For your old sins to be forgotten, just like we used to be able to before perfect computer memories came into being.

They're not strongly pro GDPR, just strongly anti FB.

I'm basing my anecdote mainly on discussions that happened before Cambridge Analytica - and were purely about GDPR and its impacts.

There's a very vocal subset that is supportive of GPDR. There's an often downvoted to hell subset that is skeptical.

This. As a founder of a small SaaS product that has never (nor plans to) sold or monetized user data GDPR has presented issues for us. Especially because EU represents <1% of revenue. From my point of view, GDPR creates barriers of entry that can hurt small players.

As a human, yes I care about privacy and the right to be forgotten. As an entrepreneur, these barriers of entry piss me off.

Unless you are in the EU just don't worry about it. Think of it has EU shotgun to the foot that lets non-EU startups get ahead.

It's possible to delete account and still preserve content from that account. In DB, just add a deleted_at field and don't log in users with that field populated.

This reminded me of a task I undertook sometime last year in which over the coarse of the month I attempted to delete my accounts on a number of sites that I no longer used. The experience was completely crazy. It ranged from a few sites that had a basic account deletion page that functioned correctly, to both automated and human confirmations of deletion after which I was still able to access my account. Sigh...

You can ask about it every year and it won't change. Over the months I have resigned myself to not being able to delete my account. Sometimes I post comments here...just out of boredom when Reddit has changed his design again - just accept it, go outside to the park and take a long walk. There should be important questions you can deal with.

this really should be as easy as a database DELETE operation, why is it so difficult? guess the design for HN site is not "user-first".

recalling facebook etc was impossible to remove your account but now it seems feasible and quick, though not sure if facebook/etc indeed flushes the deleted-account cleanly.

Nothing is ever that easy.

Should there be a soft-delete in case they change their mind, or if it's malicious? Can YC alumni delete accounts, since the login is tied to applications? Should new users be prevented from signing up with an old username, to avoid "stealing" an identity? Are old posts from the person deleted? Old submissions? Either way, will it cause errors somewhere? Are child comments deleted? Are deleted accounts still available in the API (which is hosted by a third-party)? If not, will that break the application of someone using the API?

I'm not saying they should/shouldn't do it, however it's not as easy as a "database DELETE operation".

Hacker News doesn't use a database - data is stored in Arc Lisp closures in flat files.

I'm not certain how it handles usernames, though (I've played around a bit with Anarki, but can't remember) but I suspect it would probably involve a lot of file parsing and editing, assuming each username is literally just copied into a field in each thread file.

> data is stored in Arc Lisp closures in flat files.

Are you sure? What the word "closure" usually refers to isn't an externalizable object used for persistent storage.

I can't speak to this particular detail, but it's written in ARC LISP, which itself is written in Racket, which has serializable closures (https://docs.racket-lang.org/web-server-internal/closure.htm...) so it's at least possible.

Well, It uses s-expressions printed to text files. I don't know if that should be called using closures or not, if not, fair enough.

Might be a good question for hn@ycombinator.com


Me: I'd like to either change the username (jasonkostempski) on my account or delete my account completely. Can help me do that?

HN: Account renaming is something we plan to implement but haven't yet. You're welcome to email back in the future and check if it's done yet.

HN doesn't delete accounts. We do sometimes delete specific comments when users are worried about getting in trouble from them. Would that help?

I realize this isn't a very satisfying answer and am sorry.

Me: I didn't say anything nasty so I'm not too worried about it :) I'll just wait for the feature. Thanks.


Me: Just want to check in and see if account deleting or username changing has been implemented.

HN: Not yet, sorry. There are some technical difficulties because YC uses HN IDs in its internal systems, which are separate, so we need to be extra careful not to make a breaking change. But we'll get there.


Me: I need my account deleted immediately. It's a matter of national security, cannot explain in detail, orders from the President of the United States.

HN: That does sound urgent, so I'm sorry to have to reply this way, but we don't actually have the ability to do this. At some point we will have the ability to rename accounts to something anonymous, but unfortunately we don't have that yet either.

Me: Damn, now he's gonna make me go work on that wall :/


Me: Are you able to change user names or delete accounts yet?

HN: Not yet, sorry, but it is coming. Do you want to be on an email list to get notified when it's ready?

Me: Yes, that would be cool, please add me.

HN: Ok, you're added.

Facebook--the most insidious and intrusive data harvester in history--at least lets its users ostensibly rename their profile and delete their account. Why does HN give less of a fuck about its users than Facebook does?

2 years, and same reply. Doesn't look good to me.

> Did you know YC startups have special privileges on Hacker News? Nobody knows what they are, but rumor has it they can delete stories they don’t like, delete comments, and have the ability to get their stories to the front.

Rumor is completely wrong. We don't even bypass the spam filter.

The essay/post really does point a picture from the other side and makes some great points. It seems to me that deleting could be a solution and also trying to take things into perspective (post was 11 years ago, Brandon put thought and reasoning, etc).

thanks for posting this, I found it very illuminating and must confess that before reading this I thought Box and Dropbox were the same company

If I post a comment, and a dozen people comment on my comment do I have the moral right to delete my comment? In most cases, the answer should be a big NO.

A deletion of a parent comment breaks the flow of discussion. Unless a service makes a point of deleting historical comments, letting users delete their comments will worsen its historical record.

1) Usually users own the copyright of their comments. They do have the moral right at-least to disallow continued propagation of comments.

2) It should still be possible to delete accounts, without removing comments -- but reassigning those comments to a temporary/anonymous account id. This solves for account deletion, but not content deletion.

It's now owned by Mark Zuckerberg. Surprise.

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