From time to time there are questions about "operational security" around like:

Search for military installed backdoors on laptop

Police forcing me to install Jingwang spyware app, how to minimize impact?

Sanitize computer after Homeland Security seizure

What alternatives are there when SSH is being actively filtered?

Depending on the laws and political situation of the specific country, doing anything to "mitigate" the issue could bring the enquirer in serious trouble. I can understand that the enquirer is concerned about his/her freedom of communication, privacy and human rights but countering actions of a executive authority might arouse or even corroborate suspicions. This could lead to drastic measures like detainment.

Also, I consider it a bit cynical that some of those questions are closed as "to broad", "off topic" or similar. This could be understood like that the concerns of the enquirer are somehow "unsubstantiated".

SE might be not the right place for those kind of questions but we should take the personal situation of the inquirer into account.

  • 1
    Just to respond to your final two paragraphs - if a question is out of scope, or too broad, then no, the personal situation of the OP is not really relevant. There are other places for those type of questions.
    – Rory Alsop Mod
    Dec 19 '18 at 9:27

It is not for us to decide whether or not someone should have posted a question that could get them in trouble. It should be up to them to make the decision, not us. If they are willing to take the risk, we should absolutely not stop them. If they reveal personally identifying information however, then we should flag the post to get the PII redacted. This can be done without denying someone from asking a question.

Regarding closure votes for these questions, the issue is often that the person asking the question does not realize that questions here need to have substance to them, identifying a clear problem that we can assist in solving. When someone asks how to protect themselves from a vague threat with no clearly defined threat model, it's naturally that the community will vote to close as too broad or unclear.


The problem is that with 3 of the 4 questions you linked, there is only the suspicion that there could be a danger to personal safety. That's a big speculation. An alarmist response would not be helpful and only sidetracks the discussion the OPs started.

I'm not sure what we can do as a community response to these situations but to do what we already do, which is to mention the possibility of a danger to personal security.

Unless we can be certain of the danger, our response can only be to raise a warning of the potential impacts.

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