Some background, copied from the FAQ, bolding mine:
… Each place boundary has what is called a “bounding box,” which is a rectangle of latitude/longitude lines that inscribe the entire boundary. For example, below in red is the approximate bounding box for Lake Merritt, in Oakland:
iNaturalist will not index an observation as being in Lake Merritt if either the observation’s accuracy circle or obscuration rectangle break that bounding box. We do this to prevent observations from being added to a place when there’s a chance they were not found there and, more importantly, to prevent users from narrowing down the location of an obscured observation. This means that if you have a Collection project for a small place, obscured observations as well as observations made near the edge of the boundary may not be displayed in your project and you may want to consider using a Traditional project.
Note that this does not apply to counties, states, and countries and their equivalents, which are “standard places” in iNaturalist (as opposed to “community curated places” that anyone can add).
Using the Lake Merritt example:
In the current situation, an observation like this with a precision circle that crosses that red bounding box of this community curated place will not be returned in a search for observations in the place.
But if Lake Merritt were a Standard Place (a county, state, province, country, or some special exception, like City Nature Challenge places), it would be returned as falling within that place. Such as in this ridiculous example:
An observation with the map pinpoint placed in Illinois, with an accuracy radius of a few thousand kilometers, will be indexed as occurring within Illinois, when the organism may actually have been observed in Alaska. (It shows up in the community curated Chicago Wilderness place because it was used as a place for the City Nature Challenge in 2018.)
The proposal is to remove this indexing exception for standard places - not for cases where the precision is very coarse due to obscuration, but due to other reasons, such as poor GPS signal or the observer’s selection.
After all, the precision circle is there to indicate just that - the observation may not fall within that place at all!
@loarie is there anything I’m missing about why this isn’t already the case? Something atlas-related or?