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It appears that new (as well as some old) users on Ask Different do not blur out/hide the device serial number when posting screenshot as part of their question.

While some may argue if sharing device serial number publicly is/is not harmful, this act is generally accidental on authors part due to ignorance.

What should be the recommended approach in such cases?

  • Should other users/moderatos proactively edit the post to hide the serial number?

  • Should the original author be notified about the visible serial number and be requested to take corrective measure(s)? (Deleting and re-posting for e.g.)

  • Should the moderators be flagged to remove the serial number from the edit history?

Additionally

  • Should serial numbers be redacted?

  • What harm does it cause to leave serial number in visible text?

Kindly share your thought(s) so that a standardized approach can be formulated to handle such cases.

  • thanks! Want me to ask a simply yes no as well. Is posting a serial number harmful or “ list the harm this causes” - I’m curious what you see as the harm in leaving that up. – bmike Jan 20 at 14:56
  • Note that a simple edit will not remove the number as old version of the post are still readable. I think mods only can really do a redaction – Mark Jan 21 at 14:00
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Thanks for raising this. I've also noticed the same thing, but don't find it to be a concern.

You've asked a few questions, so I'll provide my brief views below:

Should other users/moderatos proactively edit the post to hide the serial number?

No.

Should the original author be notified about the visible serial number and be requested to take corrective measure(s)? (Deleting and re-posting for e.g.)

No. I don't think we should be telling them to take corrective action for something that in reality poses very little (practically no) risk. I guess I could see an argument (maybe/maybe not) for letting the OP know their serial number is visible in case they weren't aware, and that should they have a particular concern with the idea of their serial number being visible, explain that they can choose to edit their post.

Should the moderators be flagged to remove the serial number from the edit history?

By users generally, no. By the original author? Yes, but only if they're concerned about it, no need otherwise.

Should serial numbers be redacted?

No, unless the original author has requested a redaction.

What harm does it cause to leave serial number in visible text?

I think this should be dealt with as a separate question as it's potentially opinion-based and could invite lots of views/answers. I also don't think it should be worded as "What harm does it cause", but rather "What harm could it cause". [I think bmike is going to post a separate question on this].

Without going into details here, my answer would be to say that there's essentially no harm, but in an absolute worst case scenario there are a couple of possible ways someone could try to use a serial number (but not in a way that causes harm to the original author). In fact, the only circumstances I can envisage a serial number being manipulated in a way that could cause harm to the original author involves someone who is both familiar with some of Apple's internal processes and also has access to personal details about the original author. An extremely low risk in the context of our site.

  • It's also possible for a serial number to cause harm if someone knew a person in real life and knew the serial number of their device. This would allow them to make a connection between a person's real life and online personas... but honestly, that's something for the author to think about, not us. – Undo Jan 23 at 4:23
  • @Undo Yep, I guess that's a possibility. It's another example of my point that a person really has to have access to personal details about the original author to cause what I would call harm. But of course, what causes 'harm' is highly subjective. Regardless, you're right - it's something for the author to think about. As far as I can tell, at most we may consider pointing out that a screenshot displays a serial number on the off chance they're not aware. It's up to them then if they want to take some action. – Monomeeth Jan 23 at 4:39

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