Can someone explain licensing to me please

I can’t speak to the legality of the observations license, though just a note that they are apparently working through some improvements to the photo licensing options:


yeah, there was a thread about this not too long ago, but generally it is better just to obscure. Note also that decreasing accuracy may not help with privacy if the centroid point is still in the place you want to keep private. Long ago iNat used a different obscuring method by which the obscured points randomly were placed in a ~10 km circle around the real location. When that was the case a large number of observations did indeed create a big circle around the obscured location, and back then I did use the method you are describing as well, and also moved the underlying point. But since that time, the obscuring has become better so that method is frowned upon by some (but not all as you will see if you dig up that thread)

@charlie: Note also that decreasing accuracy may not help with privacy if the centroid point is still in the place you want to keep private.

I was very careful to make sure that the central point was not the right location. Unfortunately this has resulted in a lot of records on iRecord with incorrect details since they have focused to the central point.

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Yeah that is one of the reasons not to do it. Unfortunately gbif and most similar aggregator maps don’t do a good job of showing uncertainty or obscuring from what I’ve seen.

Yes, iNat does allow for full deletion, my point was it doesn’t seem like they would have to. Which is to say, if they wanted to change this in the future, they could probably do so without much trouble.

And for figuring out a place with the new obscuring, it certainly is more difficult, but still possible. If you have a set of observations that you think/know were taken in the same place, you can just take the bounding boxes and keep overlaying them. Whatever area lies within all the bounding boxes is your limit of uncertainty for the actual location. It works out this way even for single observations in coastal areas sometimes where only a little bit of land/water is in the bounding box for an obviously terrestrial/aquatic organism. So it’s not a perfect solution.

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This doesn’t work (except for the coastal overlap issue) because they are laid out on a set grid that is the same for all observations posted. For instance below is the area near my house where i obscure a lot of stuff, and my house isn’t in the center of that rectangle. (no it isn’t one of the pink pins either).


On a side note please don’t post things about figuring out obscured observations on the forum. You are correct that the system isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t make sense to broadcast loopholes publicly. Meanwhile, for anything with serious security risk or otherwise top secret, it’s probably better just not to post it here or anywhere else on the Internet. It’s unfortunate, but nothing private on the internet is ever really guaranteed private.


Thanks for correcting me about the bounding boxes.
However, I do think it’s appropriate to talk about obscuring on the forum in some cases. Most generally, lots of people ask questions about obscuring their observations, and many of them have good reasons for doing so. Some might even have to do with personal safety, so if there is an issue where obscured observations might not be as secure as someone might think they are, it could be very important for them to know.
Another good reason is that transparency stops bad information. For instance, I just learned from you that the obscuring works better than I thought it did (based on what I had read in another post a while ago, though I can’t remember where now). So I actually have more confidence in the system based on getting good information from you.
And lastly, I don’t/didn’t think I was writing about anything top secret; it certainly wasn’t privileged info from anyone associated with iNat or anything. The box issue (that I was wrong about) I had read about on the old forum, probably years ago, and the coastal thing was from my own experience looking at observations on NE coastlines. So that info was accessible to anyone.
So I am hopeful that someone reading these posts will have a good understanding of how obscuring works on iNat and be able to make informed decisions about their own observations. And thanks again for showing me my mistake!

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Hi, sorry if i was unclear at all, I think talking about obscuring and explaining that it isn’t 100% perfect is totally fine. I just don’t think we should post specific loopholes and ‘hacks’ about how to get around it, because it just makes it easier for other people to find those too. If that makes any sense at all.

I don’t think what you posted was anything too problematic but we’ve had people describe in depth how to get information on where certain obscured observations are, so i wanted to say something before we went that route. A lot of these loopholes aren’t too hard to find or are discussed elsewhere, but i think making it really explicit and easy to infer observations people meant to be private (or that were auto obscured) is going to do more harm than good.

And, anything super secret, like putting someone’s safety at risk, probably shouldn’t be on the Internet. iNat is safer than some sites because it does give you options, but if you have a serious stalker after you or some similar issue, you have to be extra careful. Doxxing someone really isn’t all that hard, based on photos, check-ins, and things like that. It’s a nasty world out there. When it comes to obscured locations at ones own house, that’s a personal decision that should be made in an informed way. In terms of auto obscure I think it’s really overzealous in some cases but also really important. If you find something that is very high risk like ginseng or a rhino, consider not posting it at all, here or anywhere else for that matter.


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