We have thousands of members who post after gaps of multiple years, so we don’t delete inactive accounts automatically.
There is no explicit requirement to delete inactive users, but we are only supposed to keep data that we have a good reason to keep. So that might create an implicit requirement to delete inactive users. Some other sites do delete inactive accounts, e.g. after a year. Twitter had some publicity because they were deleting inactive accounts, and some of them were people who had died, and some people objected to that because they wanted the accounts to continue as a kind of memorial.
We currently delete the personal data for inactive users:
- added at least six months ago
- not on any groups
- not logged in for six months
- not on the spammer list
- do not have mod notes
- no logs for six months
This wasn't implemented, however, for users who were still on communities in the first wave of GDPR because:
- concerns about volunteers reacting badly to “the system” removing “their” users, and
- it’s hard to do this and retain statistical information which we need. We would have to have “ghost” deleted users still on the groups, which would confuse people.
These are practical reasons but they might not be good reasons. We know that some people come back after long gaps, which is a potentially good reason.
One of the main reasons for the six month 'cut off' is for spam reputation.
The main email providers spot when you send to old inactive mailboxes, or send mails that people don't read or engage with. If you do that, they judge that you're more likely to be a spammer whose grabbed a list of emails from somewhere.
Then they mark your mails as spam more often, which is bad for everyone.
Regularly sending emails for six months is longer than many of them recommend - three months would be better. But we think that's too short for Freegle.
So that's why we ask people to visit the site from time to time and stop sending mails if they don't.
In August 2021, Edward wrote a script to look for users with a long gap between posts, as this subject was raised on Development Group.
- The recordholder is someone who posted again after a gap of about 9 years. But that was someone in Norfolk, which is a special case because they might have woken up when we moved platform.
- Ignoring Norfolk, there’s someone in Brighton who was quite active in January 2016, and then went completely quiet until August 2021, when they become quite active again.
So that’s five and a half years. We have around 7,000 users who have posted again with a gap of three years.
Given this, it seemed not a good thing to start automatically deleting inactive accounts which are still on communities. But of course, volunteers can manually do this if they choose.