Concise explanation of Public vs. Private designation

I am confused as to whether to post using Public or Private designation. The property I recently bioblitzed is private and requires permission from the owner to photograph and explore, and I posted the images as private. I am getting comments that indicate that the location is not posting with the observation. Please explain this phenomenon and how to alleviate the confusion.

Hi Marcia. iNat has three different ‘settings’ when it comes to locations/coordinates:

  1. Open: anyone can see the exact coordinates/location of your observation
  2. Obscured: the true coordinates of your observation get randomly scrambled into a roughly 0.2 x 0.2 degree box (ends up around 400 square km depending on your latitude)
  3. Private: coordinates/location are completely hidden, so that not even the country or continent the observation was made in is shown

So ‘private’ on iNat is not a direct synonym for the typical definition of private (eg in a usage such as ‘private property’). It simply means that all location information has been removed (and thus why people are commenting that).This also means that when people search for a place to make IDs, e.g. search for all observations in Australia, even if you made that observation in Australia, it won’t show up in the search if you set the observation to private (so it can make it harder to find/ID your observations).

Given your situation, ‘obscured’ may be a better setting; the coordinates will be scrambled (so the owner’s property will not have its location revealed), but there will still be a general sense of where you saw that organism (which can be helpful for many taxa when IDing).

You can relay this info to the owner and check that’s ok. Keep in mind there are no rules against setting your observations to private, you just need to keep in mind it makes them harder to find and ID.


Basically there are three choices for the visibility of each observation that you upload; Public, Obscured, or Private. If you upload something as Public than we can all see exactly where you put the location pin and this is the most prevalent way to go especially on public land or with common species. Obscured randomly places the pin within a few miles of where you saw it, meaning that we can see what county it was seen in, but not exactly where it was, this is a good option for private property, nests, or easily disturbed/rare species, in fact in cases where what you saw is threatened/endangered iNat automatically obscures the location. Private means that all we know is that it was seen on the planet (which also means that it won’t show up if someone is searching for that particular taxon in the region that you are in, meaning it will take a lot longer to ID), the problem with that is for many species knowing the general region where it was seen might be important to identify it. For what you are doing, I would go with Obscured.


Thank you so much for the input, extremely helpful and resolves the dilemma with authority. :)


Thank you for responding, and this information is extremely helpful!

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