Was it ever possible to search a non VBulletin message board using a login email?

Apologies if this question is a little vague.

A friend of mine is going through some tough relationship issues with his wife. He claims that he found some incriminating evidence on a message board (obviously not this one). When I asked him how he was sure that his wife had posted the message, he claimed that he’d searched on her email address and found it. Allegedly she had used that email address as her contact address.

I’m having a hard time believing his story. I’ve tried replicating his story on this board and another VBulletin-based board I’m on, and I couldn’t search by my own address. I’m skeptical that any message board software would allow you to find someone’s posts that way.

Unfortunately he won’t tell me what board is involved, so I don’t know what software the board uses. I can’t believe any software like that would be so slack, though. Thanks in advance for any thoughts.

Most message boards (VBulletin based and otherwise) have some sort of user profile, and often your e-mail address will show up there. If you search for their e-mail address you can find their user name, and you can then use that user name to find their posts.

engineer_comp_geek: that’s kind of surprising to me. I tried searching on my own email address which is part of my user profile on the other VBulletin site, and I couldn’t pull it up unless I was logged in. I suppose if I had access to the user profile that would be one thing, but this person claims he just put her email address into Google and found the site. I’ve attempted to replicate that and it doesn’t work.

OK let me just clarify: if I enter Cognoscant site:boards.straightdope.com into Google, I’ll find this post and any others I might have made. Typing (my email address) site:boards.straightdope.com turns up nothing. Assuming that my friend’s wife wasn’t dumb enough to be posting incriminating stuff on a message board under a name her husband knew, I’m not sure how he could have found something by just searching on the email address.

Some of it depends on how the board is set up. There’s a way to tell search engines not to search parts of your board (google robots.txt if you want more info). So it may work on some boards but not others.

I’ve tracked down a few socks and trolls from here using little more than their e-mail address, and in many cases I’ve found information on other board profiles and posts.

Usually, searching <emailaddress> and <board site> won’t turn up posts. You’ll have to use their profile name to search for the actual posts.

We have a few people here who used their email address as their username. Either they thought that was required, or they got confused about which box was which on the signup page. Or they weren’t too worried about privacy & spam.

Here’s one example I happen to remember: “t-bonham@scc.net”. See http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/member.php?u=32993. A Google for [“t-bonham@scc.net” site:boards.straightdope.com] returns all his posts. Unsurprisingly.
More readily I’d bet it’s a variation of what **e_c_g **suggested. Boards that are trying to become social hubs want to maximize how much your private info gets out there to be correlated with and advertised to. So some webmaster making the email address be a publicly viewable field by default wouldn’t surprise me at all. And a clueless user might never think to check the privacy settings, even assuming they could find and operate them if they tried. (e.g. Facebook’s effort to stymie effective privacy control at every turn.)

It seems possible to me that a lax webmaster could have left the email field viewable. That explanation seems plausible, LSLGuy.

well people often use the same username … you know
silly_angel@yahoo.com as email
silly_angel as username at bulletin board…

Then add in some other factors like city or county or something, age, and so on, you can be sure its the right person

There’s also the possibility he simply snagged her hardware and waked through her PC or mobile browser history to find the incriminating post and doesn’t want to cop to such a hands on violation of her privacy. “I googled it” makes him seem like (a little) less of a paranoid stalker.

Yeah. That’s really the most likely. He looks through the browser history & sees she’s been on swingers.com. He clicks the history item & sees “Welcome back sugarpants27. You have 6 new messages.”

Now he’s got the key tidbit: “sugarpants27”