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Show HN: Redact – Automated deletion for your content on social networks (redact.dev)
138 points by ds 4 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 68 comments

Hey HN- Im one of the team members at redact. Redact is a cross platform electron app which allows you to delete content programmatically from most of the big sites out there (we are adding more every day). Meaning, you could say something like "Delete all posts I made on instagram with less than 15 likes in 2019" or (very soon) "Delete all my tweets that are political" We have been working on this for a little over a year. As you can imagine, working with some of these legacy services is less than ideal. (looking at you skype)

When we launched, we were aware of tons of other free services that let you delete content, but we found that most of them were either unmaintained and broken, not feature rich enough or complicated for grandmas to install. "Ok, so first- download Kali linux to a thumb drive. Then reboot into it and install python and clone this repo...."

Our goal with redact is to make privacy as accessible to the general public as possible. There are tons of services that let you delete 'public' data about you (for instance, deleting your whitepages.com page) but we found very few which took care of content YOU created across more than 1 service.

>Meaning, you could say something like... "Delete all my tweets that are political"

Are you open to sharing how this will be done? Are you doing analysis of the body of the posts, where they were posted, who or what they are replying to, etc? I imagine this is more difficult on some social media sites. Twitter for example is highly time sensitive. A tweet in reaction to some political news event might not have any political language in it and only reveals itself to be political when viewed in the proper context.

Dan congrats!

Q: Was a reason you choose a User installed application (Electron or Mobile App) vs SaaS to avoid having to store username/password for sites and the ToS issues that result from that? Or am I off base with previous comments in another Discord?

Meme Q: Were earlier versions of redact.dev so powerful they redacted the trip to Japan? :(

Best wishes and #YeeAlwaysWins

Do services like Facebook Messenger or Twitter allow you to totally delete/redact messages, or is it just hiding the data from the user's view on one side?

Any ideas why your app is so big?

macOS Redact is 433MB. Firefox is 370MB. Is this an artifact of electron?

Yeah, electron :)

Check out Tauri it is much an smaller and faster than electron.

Tauri vs. Electron is an apples-to-oranges comparison because Tauri uses system webviews, so you pay for that smaller runtime in both development and QA time (and possibly customer support time if you don't get those right). That's not inherently bad or good, but it's worth noting that the smaller app size is not free.

This is the new normal for Electron-based apps on macOS. The Electron framework itself is ~350 MB when targeting both Intel- and M1-based Macs.

If there are any Redact devs here:

Please add a feature to 'edit' messages with random data rather than redact. This has the advantage of not only updating the 'live' database but also if it's backed up in the future they'll only have the garbage data and not what you actually said.

Being able to overwrite history (where possible) is extremely valuable that reddit/discord let you do.

Additionally, there should be a 'spoofer' mode, that randomly makes comments, uploads multi GB files full of random data and adds noise to further enhance privacy.

I take great joy in "abusing" text areas and file upload boxes on the internet - it makes it significantly harder to track a subject in any way when you are making 1000 comments a day, uploading 10,000 photos you found randomly online and are joining 50 different channels ;)

To be honest I should probably make a script to do that, especially on HN...

Maybe I am alone on this, but it seems pretty unethical and selfish to "abuse" these systems and intentionally upload large amounts of garbage data in order to improve your own personal privacy. It is the equivalent of polluting. Feel free to overwrite and delete your comments to protect privacy, but users uploading "multi GB files full of random data" is putting a real burden on other people and is going to lead to a worse service for everyone.

Unethical, maybe. Though, how ethical should one be in war when the enemy is a tyrant?

The signals to rebellion start slow: you pester and annoy the enemy to let them know they have tread on the wrong turf. You try to inform them, then you try to concede points for shared ground. Once the enemy has decided that your advancements and ground meeting are to their advantage, and continue to gain ground is what we identify as skirmishes and battle starts. You ambush, you destroy logistical routes, you make it difficult for the enemy perceive that this ground is worthwhile.

At what point do you fire the cannons? At what point does the normally docile rest of society join you to arm your rebellious battlements?

I think you are witnessing the populous arming their cannons. You can object, but you can't object that the enemy is closer than ever.

This just seems hyperbolic. They aren't a tyrant because you can just leave their platform. You want to use their platform without any of the consequences that come with that usage.

You are walking into someone else's house, making demands, and breaking stuff when you don't get your way.

Every rebellion looks hyperbolic from the outside, I would say.

Reddit is indexed by an outside party, not Reddit itself. Twitter is the same way. The most infamous of Facebook's data exfiltration was Cambridge Analytica, which again is an outside indexer. The accurate comparison, imo, is "we all came to this land to communicate together, but you use the platforms features to stalk people."

Advertising is more of a concession of privacy, which I can tolerate if it's iterated on.

The option you lay in front of people is "leave". So, someone of my convictions must leave once a platform becomes so popular that it attracts professional stalkers? Why is that the only acceptable option to you?

Honestly this explanation makes it sound worse to me. Your objection doesn't appear to be with these social media companies. It seems to be with the very nature of public communication. You want the benefit of publicly communication without facing any repercussions for what you said in public. And in order to help ensure you don't face repercussions, you are polluting the shared public spaces for everyone else and forcing these social media companies to clean up after you.

Every public platform can be externally monitored and archived. If you don't accept that, don't participate in public platforms.

Not really. I've participated in public communication since I was a kid. IRC, public forums, etc...

Advertisers and platform monetization are definitely part of the problem, don't get me wrong. I just signalled that I'm willing to iterate on that problem. When my mother gets a call on her cellphone by a recruiter looking for me when we share zero relationships online it signals a pretty desperate issue in how data is being used, correlated, and exploited. The public side of these APIs is just an exacerbation of those issues, because they're the same APIs an advertiser uses.

You painting me as someone who is trying to avoid repercussions is interesting. Do you normally assume the worst about people when you debate them?

>You painting me as someone who is trying to avoid repercussions is interesting. Do you normally assume the worst about people when you debate them?

I think you are assuming a specific connotation on "repercussions". I'm not talking about "repercussions" in the coded "cancel culture" way. I am saying that you want the positives of speaking in public without the unwanted negatives. That is the literal definition of avoiding repercussions.

If your public speaking establishes you as some type of expert, people are naturally going to start reaching out to talk to you. That is the nature of public discourse. What that recruiter did is wildly unethical, but it is a natural repercussion of publicly showing traits of the person the recruiter is looking to hire. There are downsides to being a public citizen. You don't get a free pass to act unethically in order to avoid those downsides.

> I think you are assuming a specific connotation on "repercussions"

Use more careful wording then. In my eyes, you're here to deny that a problem exists (for average people, not experts) and you're advocating for me to not participate in communities which I was historically able to participate in without having my data exfiltrated or stored in perpetuity. I've argued in the past that limits to public data could perceivably exist, I think this is reasonable, but to a denialist nothing is reasonable.

The framing you propose is quite rosey, but then you immediately walk it back with how bad it is, but that it's a "natural" repercussion. So, while I want to do something about it before it becomes a bigger problem that can't be contained you're happy to sit back and say there's nothing to see here.

But hey, feel free to keep commenting on my ethics without questioning your own.

I don't know what to tell you. I feel pretty comfortable with my ethical stance here of "Don't abuse a public resource or intentionally create more work for other people purely for your own personal convenience."

I think I've made it pretty clear "personal convenience" is not the issue at stake here. I guess you're just arguing in bad faith at this point.

As you said previously...

>Do you normally assume the worst about people when you debate them?

I don't know what I said here that seemed to offended you. If you point out something that truly crossed a line, I can apologize. You weren't the one who my original comment was directed towards and in your very first comment you admitted yourself that this type of behavior was potentially unethical. I don't think I have said anything worse than that and I don't know what I did that you consider bad faith. The one example you gave of a negative result was a recruiter calling your mother. Stopping that falls under the category of "personal convenience". We all get unwanted calls from time to time. It is annoying, but it takes a couple minutes out of your day and you move on. No reason to take that as justification for flooding public sites with "multi GB files full of random data" which is where the conversation started.

Yeah, that's not "personal convenience". I would say this borders on safety. I don't think it's that difficult to imagine how this same dataset in the hands of a bad actor is to be abused.

In your case, my assumptions of you are based on how you continually downplay concerns to "not happening" or "that's no big deal". You also readily accused me of avoiding repercussions, then walking back and walking forward those claims in some kafka-esque dance.

"Arguing in bad faith" also doesn't mean you've offended me. It's just a realization that you have some other motivation at stake here. People don't just recategorize a safety and privacy issue as "personal convenience" while dancing around calling it a problem.

I guess we are just going to have to agree to disagree.

I don't consider spam phone calls as a safety threat and you do. I am not excusing the abuse of this data. I simply think these are some of the risks someone accepts by participating in this activity.

I don't know what I said that you consider denying your concerns as "not happening". Saying you should just accept those results or stop participating is not saying those results aren't happening.

I don't know why you are so tied to "repercussions" as been some type of problematic word. All it means is unintended and unwanted results. It wasn't a judgement of you. It was a literal descriptor.

My only motivation is that I am developer, I do data analysis, and I use public services. I empathize with the people who have to clean up after users abuse these services and I don't like when public services need to be downgraded because of such abuse.

I will take back that you're here in bad faith, I apologize. You just lack equivalent empathy for people who have had these APIs used on them, had their data sold, etc... as the empathy you have for developers cleaning up data from people trying to avoid having these APIs weaponized against them. Empathy is selective, and my empathy for the devs is much lower because that's what they get paid to do. I think that's a fair stance to have.

If data being 100% available is a natural consequence you're okay with, and I have to accept that then you will have to accept that people who don't agree with this growing practice but don't want to be excluded from society will introduce entropy to make those systems less efficient as a natural consequence. The efficiency and ease of access of which is what makes them weapons.

I take issue with "repercussions" because it comes off as a dog whistle for "people who believe in privacy have something to hide". I understand that's not 100% of what you meant, but it's awful close. Generally, I don't think it's okay for data to live on forever other than in highly significant events, even then it should likely be anonymized.

I do agree that we'll have to agree to disagree that not participating in the new public discourse is a viable approach.

How about you just host for your own content? Then you can delete or edit them as you wish.

Are they actually overwriting history though? Or are they just adding another record, and hiding the previous version(s)?

> Please add a feature to 'edit' messages with random data rather than redact. This has the advantage of not only updating the 'live' database but also if it's backed up in the future they'll only have the garbage data and not what you actually said.

This is a good point. Reddit is frequently uploaded to BigQuery [0]

0. https://console.cloud.google.com/bigquery?project=fh-bigquer...

> To be honest I should probably make a script to do that, especially on HN...

Please do not do this to HN. It'd make the service way less usable for everyone else.

Pretty sure that'd result in a ban pretty quickly, given HN's stance on comment deletion, throwaway accounts and community building.

Just a heads up, Reddit now rate limits edits. Many redact tools out there have not adapted yet unfortunately.


Hm any competent ops team would have backups if they really cared to find your original data

Honestly I don't think you are being as clever as you think. It would take ten minutes to write a filter to remove these spam comments and files and focus on your real ones (and every data mining company is doing this already). You can't beat a computer by trying to act like a computer. They are much better at it than you.

Have you considered just..not using the service?

I've been using a very messy compilation of too-frequently-abandoned tools from Github for things like this and slowly applying local patches to them if/when they break and if I can even determine what the problem is. Primarily to scrub my Reddit and Twitter histories every so often.

So this is absolutely something I'll be using.

One thing I noticed immediately is that "DeviantArt" is not listed as "Coming Soon" on the web page but is not currently available in the desktop Electron app.


One feature I would like to see is a Whitelist for Subreddits. I currently remove all of my posts except posts in a subreddit where 99% of my posts are Help/Q&A posts that I want to be able to benefit future people. However I want to delete all my other posts, which means knowing which subreddits I've posted in which is not always easy since I sometimes land on things from /r/All. (eg: "Delete all posts except on /r/Granblue_En") For now I had to manually add a list of 56~ subreddits one by one that I got from my log.

E2: One of the team members (Dan) responded to me over Discord. My requested feature was already on the ToDo list since they have a similar use case.

Found this interesting from the FAQ:

> "Why don't you support anything made by Google or Apple?"

> At this time, we are reliant on both Google and Apple to be listed in their respective app stores. As such, we have been advised that in order to remain in good standing we should not offer support for these services.

What a disturbing reality these developers are up against. Even though this is a big limitation, the project is wonderful!

facebook / twitter will complain to apple and they'll get booted.

I expected this to be a project with a few developers on it. But it looks like a serious company.

What I don't understand is why an electron app? Why not a SaaS app?

I see the plan to make money via premium features on the phone apps but I am even more confused to why I would want to run this on my phone.

Electron app obv implies more privacy in a sense (assuming that no data is sent to their server).

You wouldn't but "average users" would prefer to run it on their phone. For example, this could turn into a social media management tool for "influencers" and celebrities - managing their social media profiles with advanced deletion conditions etc.

Last time I ran a script on one of my social media profiles, Instagram locked my account, even though I ran the script in read-only mode. How does this prevent being locked out?

How come HN doesn't have to follow delete laws allowing users to delete their messages?

GDPR doesnt apply in America.

GDPR applies to all European citizens so likely also for HN if they target a european audience which is true imo.

Beware, 3 years ago I lost my facebook account after I deleted all my posts using a python script that opened my facebook wall and iterated over the posts. Couple of days later, I was banned on facebook and whatsapp and never restored my old fb account, but somehow got back my whatsapp's. Probably they watch for possible bot interactions and flag them.

The T&C [1] state that “Prices for our products are subject to change without notice.”.

Is the current version of the product paid? How are you planning to monetize it in future?

[1]: https://redact.dev/terms

All that is in the FAQ- We are going to charge for upsells in the future mobile app

beware deleting your own messages on discord ("self botting") is against tos and people have been banned for it, myself included

I'm one of the people who helped build one tiny part of this, and I think the coolest part of Redact is the fact that it makes it possible to clean up your social media history without totally nuking it from orbit. Early on, we thought that most people would use the service once to delete everything, and never touch it again or only use it once every few months or even years. We quickly found that a lot of people want to continue to use social media services and like retaining the contents of their social media and history of their lives, but want to clean up some things that don't reflect their current views or could cause issues today.

This is truly awesome. Been using hacky scripts for this purpose for a while – seeing a more formal solution is very exciting. Kudos. Also, would definitely pay for this, FWIW

I like this as an option. When i did engage initially with Twitter, I found tweetdelete useful in culling tweets that were over 14 days old and nukereddit was useful in cleaning up the same.

Having nuked/deleted/closed all my accounts has had the same outcome with less work.

I dont have controversial opinions or political posts. Still on both platforms would get people shitposting/linking to a 4 month old tweet/comment because it was a hot topic again for 48 hours.

Is Redact affiliated with the EFF? The prominent “Support the EFF” banner suggests so, but the FAQ makes no mention.

No, we just believe in the mission of privacy and they seem like the biggest supporters in the business. They paved the road we now walk upon, so its due to give them something back.

*edit- Seeing comments below, I can see the issues. We will remove the 'Support the EFF' banner for now until we can do it in a better manner.

You may want to make that clear. I took that to mean this was EFF sanctioned, and that changed how I was going to vet this before I used it. That said, I love this project.

I support this suggestion very strongly. Currently, it really does seem like the service is affiliated with the EFF, which is misleading.

Keeping the current design has at least two drawbacks.

- First, it makes you seem shady. After realizing that you are probably not affiliated with the EFF, I became very suspicious of the service, especially since it is closed-source.

- Second, there might be legal ramifications of "pretending" to be affiliated with the EFF.

If the banner wasn't there, I would have most likely already downloaded and started using Redact for my personal research project. It looks like a great product!

Looks like the developers took the suggestion. As of now the EFF banner is off the site, that's a really good move to keep up a trustworthy image!

We did, Im just not sure how to show our support for the EFF without it being misconstrued. A tiny link in the footer does very little to drive traffic to the EFF, which was the goal of the prominent position. Without donations EFF doesnt exist and thats bad news for all privacy startups.

Maybe put a banner at the bottom which says something like "Redact supports the EFF but is not affiliated with them. We encourage you to donate to open source privacy software at this link: <Link to EFF>"

Can I use this on hacker news?

How does this get around Twitter's limits on retrieving older tweets? Last time I built a script to bulk delete tweets I had to manually export my data to get all the tweet ids for older tweets.

I would like to have this for Hacker News! Then again as far as I know there’s no way to delete old posts other than to email a mod, so I suppose I could just schedule a regular automatic email.

I don't think you should do that.

HN is willing to go into the database and nuke an account, but the general premise of the site is that it's a durable record. It's understandable that individual accounts might have a change of heart about that, for any number of reasons, and it's good of the HN mods to allow it as an exception.

But regularly emailing them to do that work for you is pretty presumptuous. You should either use the site as intended, or not use it.

I find old HN pages useful or interesting on almost a weekly basis. A big part of that is that there aren't holes punched in the old threads by people who went back and deleted everything.

An alternative which is more in keeping with the spirit is to just make a new account every now and then.

> An alternative which is more in keeping with the spirit is to just make a new account every now and then.

This is what I do. I wish HN allowed you to have your username redacted automatically from all messages older than 6 months, so I wouldn't need to.

The idea is that the text of all your comments remains, but the username changes to [redacted] once the comment is six months old. All six-month-old comments by all users who have enabled this feature all appear to have come from one huge account called "[redacted]". This would preserve the discussions, while removing attribution and linkability between comments. There's really no need for abuse/spam management on six-month-old posts (if it wasn't flagged in six months it doesn't need to be flagged).

Probably the only downside is that up/downvotes to ancient posts couldn't affect the post-owner's super-important InternetPoints(tm) count, since if they did it would be possible to wiggle the upvote on a comment and then scan to see which account got a point-bump. So [redacted]'s comments wouldn't have up/down-vote arrows.

That would be a good compromise, yes.

I think HN has enough 'karma traffic' that a timing attack against someone's Internet Points wouldn't be very feasible. But the easy implementation is to literally have a [redacted] account in the database, and point all the posts at it. I'm not sure it matters; leaving behind royalty checks for old posts is a fair trade for anonymizing the data.

I really don’t see what’s different about HN in this respect vs any other social media. As far as I understand I have the legal right to delete my data if and when I want to. What seems pretty presumptuous is the idea that your personal convenience when going through old threads would somehow be more important.

You do have that right, yes. I have the legal right to call you slurs and insult your mother; that doesn't make it right.

If I were the person who had to go through the database and delete your comments the second time, I'd delete the row corresponding to your account while I was in there.

No idea how HN would handle it. You can find out if you want to.

I actually spoke with one of the people at HN and suggested they implement a feature which lets you disassociate a post or comment from the author. I think this is very similar to how reddit handles it when you delete an account. All the posts/comments stay in place, but the author name of each item changes from "Bobsmith33" to "deleted user" - Seems like a great compromise for HN. Good (and bad) content remains, but the association factor is removed.

i remember doing this right from 2010 right till 2015 if i remember correctly. I used to spend hours trying to remember my old legacy handles which i had accumulated since 2004 and nuked them one by one. I still am on hibp but now the footprint is much smaller and it isn't tied to my "AFK" profile , just random usernames which i do not repeat anywhere. "lurk Moar" is a concept which has all but forgotten these days now. People need to learn to adopt this to keep themselves safe out there.

Since this is an Electron app, does that mean your API keys are distributed in the app.asar? Otherwise, I'm not sure how it's possible to make OAuth requests on the user's behalf

This is an awesome tool that addresses a real need for many privacy conscious folks!

AD: I can't see any source code? Did you redact it already?

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