Can observations get kicked back to Needs ID if an IDer leaves iNat?

Can observations with one or two IDs get kicked back to Needs ID if an IDer leaves iNat and deletes their account?

I guess the answer is “yes”, but I ask because I’ve been working through Australian Needs ID recently and I’ve noticed that the number of Needs ID observations has suddenly jumped by several thousand in the last couple of weeks (prior to the Great Southern Bioblitz last weekend, so I’m not mistaking it for that), more than I would expect if myself or others stopped IDing for a few days. At the same time I’ve been coming across many observations, mostly a year or more older, that depict what I would think are organisms that are relatively easy to id to at least family or genus. Such that even if the observer couldn’t ID them, I am surprised that they have clung on to Needs ID for this long. Some of these observations, such as this one, have the observer’s original ID (correct, to my untrained eye) withdrawn as if someone has come along later and ID’d to a more specific level.

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Yes, if the account is deleted - I think this is still the case - it certainly was a while back when a prolific NZ spider IDer left and it caused chaos - thousands of IDs needed to be pushed back to RG.

Strikes me as an “interesting” iNat design decision.


yes, unfortunately this was due to a prolific Australian IDer deleting their account a couple of weeks ago


So what is the rationale for deleting IDs when someone deletes their account? I can understand deletion of observations, but IDs seems somewhat central to the purpose of the platform. Why not simply replace the deleted account name with a placeholder and leave the ID as is?


Aah I found this thread. I’ll read it when I completely lose the will to live.

I’m not sure why iders think it’s ok to delete accounts, but it happens pretty often.
The plant is not a Lilium though.

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The topic you found concluded with staff indicating that

To my knowledge that has not been implemented yet, but I would strongly favor giving accounts that option during the deletion process. It might save a lot of good IDs, though not all, depending on the reasons for the deletion.


Makes the process too easy, in my opinion. Perhaps an additional email request to delete IDs should be necessary, otherwise they remain. Otherwise you have a site-breaking hole that can be created by people having a tantrum and wanting to take all their toys home. At least with a secondary step they have a chance to chill and think about it.

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That might not be feasible for compliance with EU law that was mentioned in that thread. At the very least, I would think immediate anonymization would have to occur for any content that was retained pending a further step.

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Having implemented GDPR safeguards in my own business a few years ago I think those original concerns may have been a bit inaccurate.

If the user record is completely anonymised, then the record no longer falls under the scope of GDPR. So if you replace the ID with some placeholder, and remove/obfuscate any other references to the ID such as email, name, address, etc, then the ID record is safe.

Also GDPR supports a Right Of Access anyway, whereby a data subject (in this case the user) can contact a company to ask certain things about the data held, including requesting deletion. See

Long story short, I am pretty sure this could be managed half with a less draconian default deletion policy, and half with a follow-up customer support process.

Someone in the other thread stated ‘principles’ as being the reason. I think that those will end up as a stronger barrier than even GDPR to resolving this.


I relate with this, completely. I understand the need to protect privacy, and the need to value someone’s choice when they want to delete their account for good. But taking away their IDs and other contributions along with them sets the whole community back.

I’ve been in the middle of it for a few weeks now. I’m one of those who annotates every single observation I touch, and over my time on iNat, I’ve encouraged a few others to do the same. And one such person who annotated hundreds (thankfully not thousands) of observations recently deleted their account, and took away all their IDs (a few thousand of them) as well as their annotations. I was aware of the former, but the latter left me quite disappointed. I’m still adding those annotations back every time I come across those records, but it’s rather scary to think that it’s so easy to undo the work.

I’m mostly just ranting here. I’m sure there would have been an alternative if there could be.


Yes this seems like a reasonable way forward.

Wow, imagine if a researcher could make all their publications disappear off JSTOR that easily.

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I think on Flickr if someone deletes their account, their comments on other people’s photos remain but with the user name as (deleted) and no longer clickable. I also seem to remember that when leaving a group, you can choose whether to remove all your contributions as well or not. I understand some people will want to delete all traces of their activity on the website but maybe adding a choice to leave your iNat contributions intact when deleting your account might be an option. I can see how this might open up a whole new can of worms though.


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