QUOTE(wikiwhistle @ Mon 3rd December 2007, 9:24pm)
As far as I know and also my OH who has a degree in computer science and is very well versed in these issues, he said
"if they know of a way that normal-ranking members of a forum can gather other's IPs, I would LOVE to know about it :D "
if you hosted your avatar on a domain you personally control, you could look at the raw access logs for that domain, data-mine all the requests for that specific image, and compare it to a similar list you generated from other images. We've known about that all along, and in fact we even deleted Wordbomb's sigs a couple of times just to make sure... but we've nevertheless resisted imposing strict controls on avatars, simply because it would make the place less fun. We also haven't received any complaints, really, except of course from Gary Weiss. Though that may only be because people aren't sufficiently aware of the issue, just like they're not sufficiently aware of the Gary Weiss issue...
Now, whenever someone changes their avatar around here, one of us usually checks to see where it's coming from. But a really devious
person could host their avatar on one site for a while and then change it to another after a few weeks, and we might not notice until it's - tragically
- too late!
Alkivar's idea of having all the images hosted locally is perfectly reasonable, except that it means exposing an FTP-accessible folder to the world, and there are ways that can be exploited, even though you'd have to be something of a hacker to grab the authentication. Still, if we were a non-controversial site, then we'd almost certainly do it that way, I suppose...
The compromise alternative, which I've been dragging my arse on for two months, is to insist that people use one or more third-party image-hosting sites, such as imageshack and photobucket, that everyone can pretty much agree on. That, or else restrict themselves to what's in the avatar gallery. Again, not as much fun, but I suspect most people wouldn't mind - those sites are fairly easy to use.