Shield askmes from google searches? May 18, 2011 3:00 PM   Subscribe

This is probably a stupid question but is there a way to shield anonymous AskMe questions from google searches? It's a medical question about a very sensitive family matter and I'd hate to have any family member EVER stumble upon all the background details of my inquiry.
posted by bonobothegreat to MetaFilter-Related at 3:00 PM (39 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

This is really not possible, no. If you really need your question to be truly not found by Google, you shouldn't put it on AskMe.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:05 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, an anonymous MetaTalk posting option for anonymous AskMetafilter privacy concerns does seem to be in order now.
posted by y2karl at 3:08 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


You could always fill it with extraneous detail misinformation. Like, if it's about your sister, phrase it like it's about your uncle. Or like it's about you. If the symptoms have lasted for three years, say they've lasted for four or two. Etc. As long as it's not directly relevant to the question, lie.

(I realize this isn't really in the spirit of AskMe, but with the sheer number of very detailed anonymous Asks I've seen, I have to assume this has been done before, just to throw interested parties off the scent.)

But really unless your family members know you're on metafilter and asking medical questions (in which case, this thread probably doesn't help), I think your question would have to be pretty pointedly detailed for someone to find it and realize it's about them. There are hundreds of anonymous medical questions on the internet.
posted by phunniemee at 3:13 PM on May 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Are questions that have been deleted from askmetafilter visible to google?
posted by andoatnp at 3:14 PM on May 18, 2011


Uh, well it won't be too hard to connect the dots now, anyway, now that you've posted this.
posted by empath at 3:18 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Btw, this has actually come up for me. A friend's boss was talking to him about an issue with a neighbor and one of those 'mosquito' noise maker things which was driving them crazy (something like that anyway, don't remember the exact problem now), and I thought it was an interesting problem, so i posted a question about it, after I asked him if it was okay. Not 10 minutes later, someone turned to his boss and said: "Who do you know at metafilter.com?"

Because if you searched for terms related to the problem, my question shot right to the top of google results within just a few minutes.
posted by empath at 3:23 PM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


The big problem is that search engines are designed to index things that are visible on the public internet, period. The only thing that would really work is locking down AskMe so that only registered users can access it, and that's probably pretty unlikely...
posted by verb at 3:23 PM on May 18, 2011


Even if it were possible, it would reduce the usefulness of the site as a resource for people searching for help with the same or similar problems.
posted by Gator at 3:25 PM on May 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


designed to index things that are visible on the public internet, period

That's simply not true. Things can be visible on the public internet and still not indexed by Google through the use of robots.txt or with the noindex tag, which is what Metafilter uses to keep deleted posts from showing up on google.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:30 PM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thanks. I'll have to accept that a lot of the background detail was probably just me getting shit off my chest and the main question might still be answerable without it.

It just stumbling across my own askme when doing some further googling recently and it spooked me.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:37 PM on May 18, 2011


Are questions that have been deleted from askmetafilter visible to google?

We add a noindex tag to deleted threads and that tells Google to remove the page from their index. The page is still visible if you know the URL, and not all search engines respect noindex directives as well as Google. We can't claim that a deleted thread is off the public Web permanently, but once a page is gone from Google it is gone for most people.
posted by pb (staff) at 3:40 PM on May 18, 2011


For the record, incest is probably a bad idea. (Hi, Eric Schmidt!)
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:46 PM on May 18, 2011


You should probably explain the backstory, so you don't look TOO creepy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:55 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Somewhat related question: has there ever been a legal request to break anonymity?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:18 PM on May 18, 2011


It just stumbling across my own askme when doing some further googling recently and it spooked me.

hi bonobothegreat. Great question, though if I may make an observation, making a Meta may help someone more if they were to search, just saying. If it is of great concern, the mods have ways and means and little things that make these matters do what needs to be done.

Somewhat related question: has there ever been a legal request to break anonymity?
posted by Tell Me No Lies

that would be telling.
posted by clavdivs at 4:19 PM on May 18, 2011


There is a back story, right?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:24 PM on May 18, 2011


Somewhat related question: has there ever been a legal request to break anonymity?

We've had maybe one case that I know of where there was a legal action that involved knowing who one of our commenters was [though not who an anonymous asker was] during the airnxtz thing and I honestly don't know what specifically happened since legal stuff goes directly to mathowie.

We're really clear though that if you need a level of anonymity that requires it to withstand a legal challenge, anonymous questions in AskMe are not going to be that. They are not designed that way and we do not want them to work that way. We're not trying to be narcs about it, but we've seen a few questions that are clearly borderline "Help me get away with something that would normally send the cops after me" questions and we're generally not okay with that. This is also why we don't accept anon questions about suicide, even though those people are obviously in need of assistance, because we can't promise to protect your anonymity in a life or death situation.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:51 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nobody is going to find that question. There are zero keywords.
posted by DU at 5:43 PM on May 18, 2011


Well, there was that one time __________ said that __________ was __________, but I've already said too much.
posted by ellenaim at 6:13 PM on May 18, 2011


It wasn't just one time either.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:06 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even if it were possible to exclude a particular AskMe page from search engines' indexes (remember, Google is not the only game in town), once it's online it can be linked to or quoted from any arbitrary other site, which will then be indexed. Or the link can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

In other words, there's more than one way to stumble upon something, and absence from Google doesn't equal secrecy.
posted by staggernation at 8:13 PM on May 18, 2011


Nope, there's nothing creepy about the back story.

It's just that I was hoping to detail some family history and it would be impossible for the family member not to recognize himself. I expect he'll also be googling the issue pretty deeply, and it'd be painful for him to cross my cyber-path. I'm a bit stressed out and I need to think a bit.

I'll probably just explain my general point of view without going into all my specific justifications.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:54 PM on May 18, 2011



maybe write key words backwards or in some other very simple code that will be easy for readers to interpret very quickly but would mess up the google search results?
posted by Bwithh at 10:50 PM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Hope me! There's one member of my family, community & species who I've never had sex with in every conceivable position. I just can't bring myself to do it. Any advice on how to move forward would be appreciated"
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:49 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


stop picking at it.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 5:21 AM on May 19, 2011


Previously
posted by a non e mouse at 5:28 AM on May 19, 2011


Apart from Cortex's concern (in the above link - which I can't really see as an issue - the whole idea is to seek help, in the first instance - sharing of said help is secondary, but in sensitive situations, sometimes not helpful at all), maybe you could directly contact someone in the community that you feel could answer your question using mefi-mail... just try and find a similar situation, identify the most cogent responses and seek their help directly?

I'll probably cop it for this suggestion, but that seems logical to me.
posted by a non e mouse at 5:47 AM on May 19, 2011


I was thinking contact jessamyn directly for advice on how to phrase the question so that there's enough information that people can answer it, but not so much detail that it would be recognizable by your family. She's the one who usually approves (or declines) the anonymous questions anyway, as I understand it, and she can certainly steer you around the perilous waters of "you didn't include enough information" and "you included too many extraneous details that people are going to jump on you for."
posted by Gator at 5:55 AM on May 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is probably a stupid question but is there a way to shield anonymous AskMe questions from google searches? It's a medical question about a very sensitive family matter and I'd hate to have any family member EVER stumble upon all the background details of my inquiry.

You could use code words. You can place a cryptic key in the post that lets people know what you are really talking about, maybe even spelling it backwards or using pig Latin, and then a search engine returns nothing to someone accidentally. People talk this way all the time around children. This question is ahead of its time. Given the improved technology and marketing/profiling milieu the internet presents, we're probably all going to speak in code on the internet about personal matters one day.
posted by Brian B. at 6:32 AM on May 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


You could post the question in rot 13 with a link to a decoder.
posted by empath at 6:33 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Brian B, the pink giraffe is at 6 o'clock under the umbrella. You know what I mean.
posted by desjardins at 6:55 AM on May 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


empath, while I sympathize with this particular person's situation, I think that is a terrible precedent to set, and the usefulness of AskMe would plummet if questions were coded in rot 13.
posted by desjardins at 6:56 AM on May 19, 2011


Brian B, the pink giraffe is at 6 o'clock under the umbrella. You know what I mean.

Okay, but don't tell the others yet.
posted by Brian B. at 7:02 AM on May 19, 2011


I see that the OP has posted their question in code, per Brian B's suggestion.
posted by jbickers at 7:24 AM on May 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


I don't think empath was completely serious. At least I hope not.
posted by Justinian at 7:47 AM on May 19, 2011


There are limits to anonymity on the Web. If you can post your question in the most caring manner possible, it may help. You could ask another MeFite to post it for you, to add a layer of distance. If I were to search for information on cranky middle-aged women with red hair who have tribal tattoos, and are looking for information on the effects of pre-frontal lobotomy following trepanation, and saw that my sister had posted a snarky question, I would be angry. However, if my sister posted a thinly-veiled question that respected my choices and was sincere and caring, I would probably be okay with it. If she mentions that I look great with red hair, and the tattoos are incredibly cool, we're all set.
posted by theora55 at 7:59 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mom?!? I KNEW I shouldn't have told you about my erectile dysfunction!!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:51 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's okay, dear, I didn't post the question. It's really a LOT more common than you think. But you might want to give your hand a rest once in a while. mkay?
posted by Mom at 1:55 PM on May 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think empath was completely serious. At least I hope not.

It would have solved the problem, no?
posted by empath at 2:33 PM on May 19, 2011


« Older Shit Someone's Dad Says?   |   Shouldn't this deleted AskMe revived? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments