The right to vanish was first proposed on MeatBall; see MeatBall:RightToVanish. The principle it embodies is that contributors leaving a project permanently may have any personal contributions unrelated to the core mission of the project removed.
It is similar to the WikiMindWipe, but far less reaching. In the context of the Wikimedia Foundation, the term was first used on the English Wikipedia, where it became a customary courtesy before the formation of the Foundation. (See Wikipedia:Courtesy vanishing).
Like the English Wikipedia, most other Wikimedia projects tolerate the "vanishing" of users who wish to leave permanently. The term is a misnomer in that it is not a "right" or guarantee but rather a courtesy extended to valued contributors who wish to leave. Since contributions are made under the GFDL or CC-BY-SA, which provide an irrevocable license, there is no basis in law or contract for contributors to remove either content they have contributed or attribution for the same.
How a request to vanish may be fulfilled
- Usernames - Usernames cannot normally be deleted, but can sometimes be changed. Even if this is done, it may still be possible to link your new and old names with a minimal degree of work.
- Work on the project - Your work, including "signatures" (text indicating your authorship of comments) on all but your own user and talk pages, will usually not be changed or removed. To change these would be a major source of disruption. Individual revisions of individual pages that contain personally identifying information may be oversighted instead.
- User pages, and their subpages, and other non-article pages that no others have substantively contributed to and whose existence does not impact the project, may be courtesy blanked or deleted. User talk pages are rarely deleted.
- Logs - Administrative and editorial logs showing matters you have been involved with, during your career as an editor, such as your edit history on other pages, will usually remain accessible under your old name.
- Related matters discussed in more detail below include: making a clean start, removal of personal information from public viewing, and other actions you can take.
Personal information and its removal
- The Wikimedia projects will delete personal information about editors and contributors (most likely on user and user talk pages) at their request, provided it is not needed for administrative reasons (which are generally limited to dealing with site misuse issues).
- Personal information related to encyclopedia articles and persons mentioned therein are not covered by "right to vanish". Instead, please see the relevant editorial policy on biographical articles, which contains full details of editorial directives, and actions to take if dissatisfied.
In general, involuntary disclosure of personal information is dealt with via oversight; there is no need to vanish unless the publicly known information is sufficiently notorious and accessible that oversight is no protection.
Also usernames can often be changed, subject to broad conditions and processes.
If you have used your real name, or a longstanding pen name, on Wikimedia projects then in principle everything you write can be traced to that name, and thus to you, as discussed above. However, if you decide to leave Wikimedia projects, there are a few steps that you can take to weaken that connection. They are:
- Change your username to some other name, one which is not directly associated with you (see Changing username).
- Change references to your former username to be referenced to your replacement username (you can do this yourself).
- Delete your existing user and user subpages (contact an administrator). User talk pages are only be deleted in some cases.
- While logged in under your old username, create new user and user talk pages for your old account, containing a brief note indicating that you have left Wikimedia projects and asking that people not refer to you by your name.
Be aware that any edits or posts you make, will appear in page history under the account you used at the time. Therefore take care with your login name usage, and be very careful not to edit your old pages or pages you habitually visit, when you are logged in with a name you do not want associated with that account.
How to request a vanishing
If you wish to take advantage of right to vanish, you can use one of the following methods to make your request:
- The best way is to visit Special:GlobalRenameRequest to access the rename request interface. Requests made this way will be processed by global renamers or stewards. Please specify "request to vanish" in the reason field; your requested username should be of the form "Renamed user nnnnnnnnnn" replacing n with random characters.
- If your request is particularly sensitive, you may contact the stewards via e-mail and ask that your account be renamed, giving "request for courtesy vanishing" as the subject. Please use the contact interface at Special:EmailUser/Wikimedia Global-renamers or email renamerswikimediaorg. If you send the mail directly, please include some kind of proof that the account is indeed yours. Please be aware a record is kept in the OTRS system that can be seen by anyone with access to the renamers email queue. This is restricted to current renamers, stewards and Wikimedia Foundation staff.
- What is deemed to be related to the vision of various projects is left to local discretion, but typically involves a project's informational content rather than its maintenance/administrative side.