Default Obscure Account Settings?—iNaturalist User Safety

I wanted to ask if there’s an option for obscuring geoprivacy/time/date by default? I’ve read through some of the topics and it seems that the majority of the concerns are about the species being observed, for very valid reasons.

However, for users like me who live in countries with security concerns (kidnapping, violence, hate crimes …), iNaturalist seems like the perfect way to keep tabs on an individual’s patterns of movement, revealing the areas we work in and live in. I’m sure there are users in other countries around the world with these same concerns, and no matter how careful you are when uploading you’re bound to slip up at some point or just not understand how to use the platform yet.

So basically I have two questions:

(1) Am I missing something, or is there not yet a default obscure option?

(2) What do other iNat users think about this topic and privacy concerns for users in general?



welcome to the forum

you can obscure any and all of your observations if you wish

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Thanks, I guess I should have been more specific. I know when uploading from a computer we have this option, however, I take most observations on my phone and I’ve been uploading one observation at a time and painstakingly obscuring each one.


I was wondering more if there’s an option in the account settings which automatically obscures all your observations by default when you upload (from pc or phone).

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Thanks, so basically it’s not possible according to staff: “Because iNat is fundamentally about sharing information, it’s not possible to set a default geoprivacy to obscured or private. It needs to be done on an observation-by-observation basis, via batch editing on upload in the web uploader, or via batch editing on the Edit Observations screen on the webs…”


I think that this mindset comes from a position of privilege to freedom and security, we don’t have that option in the majority of countries in the world. I hope that someday it will be possible, thanks again.


yup… it may also be worth noting that the best way to achieve maximum privacy is to refrain from posting at all.


Of course, that is an option, and in no way does my previous statement about privilege imply malice, usually when you’re privileged enough to live in a safe country it just means you’re unaware of other’s way of life and struggles in places where security is an issue (I’ve lived in both).

I started using iNat very recently because I want to do my part, and at the very least document species in my area before they’re lost to rampant development and a lack of funding for investigation and conservation efforts. So, in the end, I think that it’s a balance between the good and bad of being on the internet.

If I have to live with the inconvenience of not having this feature, then so be it. The joys of gaining a deeper understanding of nature around me, and a sense of community are unquantifiable positives. Already my observations are being used in one person’s research and that brings joy to my heart!


How specific are you with your locations? Are there locations that you can generalize and use over again that you can save as an obscurred pinned location?


Most of my locations are completely different, and I take most observations or at least a picture with my phone to get an accurate location and be able to go back and observe them throughout the seasons. It’s especially helpful for a lot of the Mammillaria cacti we have here which are minuscule and are very difficult to spot against the background. Eg: M. peninsularis, M. schumannii


But definitely will look into your suggestion for more regular areas, thanks for the tip.


It looks like you use an iPhone for your observations -this suggestion may only work for an Android phone.

Android details of an image result in a map that can expand. On that map are thumbnails of all images at respective location, sometimes stacked with a number of images at that location. Zooming in on the map causes the images to spread and the stacks become smaller as the location accuracy becomes finer and finer.

The original file name of posted image on iNat is now available to the original poster - possibly reference this, or the date when trying to locate the original image at the originating file location.

One could use the combination of such for personal records while keeping iNat submissions general with an obscured pinned location.

Not sure if this is helpful at all but if it is about safety vs horrible outcomes, this might be worth the time.


I agree with you that many of us have a privileged position in regards to security concerns that you mentioned. I have thought about that issue in more abstract terms. I have thought about asking some folks I know what life is like where they live, but have not done so for security reasons.
I think your risk assessment needs to consider whether you are concerned about government or individuals. Governments can be sophisticated and are more likely to monitor sites like this (or iNat) for whatever reasons. If it is individuals/gangs I think the risk might drop. They may not know about iNat or how to access it. They also may not be motivated enough to dig through observations to find your activity.
I’m not diminishing your concerns in any way. I am suggesting that iNat may present less risk than some other sites, unless you are a valuable target. I’m not where you are, and will not ask, so I don’t know your experiences and the dangers. Simply adding another way of looking at things.


Great suggestions, there’s a similar way to view photos on iPhone. Thanks for taking the time with your reply :pray:

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@gehrenberg (we/us pronouns) when we read that you do not have security where you live, we feel sad. This does not meet our need for hope and trust in humanity. We do have sufficient privilege that we never considered such concerns before. That you for contributing to our learning and ability to be more supportive.

When we read a reply that suggests you could just not post at all, we also feel sad. Such a reply would not meet our needs to be seen and heard. We wanted to reply to say that we do hear you.

We did not read any of your posts assuming malice. We hope that inat can support you so that you can continue to document species and learn and contribute in ways that are safe for your life. We also understand that certain resources of those who could solve these concerns are limited. We hope compassion is not limited.


yes, and let me just clarify it a bit, since it suspect it has been interpreted in way that is different from what i intended. my statement there is not meant to address the “position of privilege to freedom and security” comment. it only affirms the OP’s reading of the staff position on default geoprivacy functionality and then attempts to state that if the need to protect user safety / privacy is extremely high, then the safest / most private option is to avoid posting at all, though of course it is up to the observer to determine their tolerance for risk and act accordingly.

i thought it was worth pointing this out because as i have noted elsewhere many times, i think users of the system may put too much faith in the ability of the geoprivacy functionality in the system to protect their locations. it’s better than nothing, but i do not trust it to protect my own personal safety / privacy, and i don’t think it should be the first option for most people to protect their safety / privacy either.


The security issue is clear. One solution is to publish the observations in a year, or many years later. Or when you radically change your place of residence. If you save your photos, their value will not diminish.


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