Filter out observations with obscured locations?

Hey folks, I’m wondering if there is a way I can filter out observations in a search with their locations obscured.

I recently watched a public presentation by a California Department of Fish and Wildlife employee where they presented a map that they claimed showed areas of high bio-diversity within our county with implications of where projects should and should not be allowed to occur. In truth, I believe the map showed not biodiversity but human effort in documenting biodiversity. CDFW’s map showed high biodiversity around populations centers and along roads with the lowest biodiversity in inaccessible locations.
For comparison with CDFW’s map, I’d like to be able to produce a map with iNat that reflects where people using iNat have made observations. The randomly placed dots representing obscured observations confound this attempt since they do not represent an actual location where the observation was made. How do I turn them off?

It would also be nice to turn off visualization of obscured observations while in the field; Sometimes I like to go look for something someone else has observed, kind of like a living geocache. Its frustrating to have put in effort looking for something that is not really at the location where its depicted. Presumably the page would load faster too, if it weren’t putting effort into presenting false information.

You can use the URL parameter &geoprivacy=open

Hmm, that helped a little bit. There are still many observations displayed in inaccurate locations after I apply this filter. Any further things I can do?

Ah ha! I think the URL parameter I needed to use was &taxon_geoprivacy=open

Actually needed both.

This does seem to confirm my suspicion that CDWs map shows observer effort rather than biodiversity.


This is a tremendously needed feature, especially on the phone app.

A user near me uploaded 2,500 (and counting) obscured location photos from her old photo collection… so everything is just a giant brick of very common birds and frogs. It makes the app really frustrating to use.

I hate to block people for reasons like this, but it’s completely ridiculous. :(

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I’m afraid I’m the biggest culprit in my area. I am a professional biologist and I upload a lot of rare plants and observations that are obscured because they are on private property where I haven’t asked my clients for permission to divulge information.

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That’s different than obscuring sparrows and dandelions though. :)

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I would argue that showing obscured observation it isn’t presenting “false information.” It’s just a different kind of information. There’s a legend that clearly shows that circles are obscured locations.

Another solution is to download the data and then filter out obscured observations and make your own maps in whatever program you prefer.

On the other hand, I totally agree that the maps you describe are a horrible way to try to show diversity. iNat data as a whole are absolutely a map of where people are active. That’s not to say iNat data aren’t useful, but they need to be used/analyzed in ways that respect and account for the process that generated them. I hope you’re able to convince CDFW not to use iNat data as you describe!


It won’t change performance at all, the randomized coordinates are hard coded into the record. It doesn’t take any longer to map the real ones versus the obscured ones.

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This is a known issue with iNat and every other citizen science project.

Observations happen where people are, and observations tend to be of species that are commonly seen.

iNat is great for species range, but not very good for biodiversity, species density, etc.

Knowing the limitations of the platform and how users use it is important in understanding how to best use and analyse the data that iNat collects and contains.

In addition, species that are under threat have their locations obscured as a safety protocol, so removing those observations from the map when viewing it ensures that critical species that are conservation and biodiversity relevant are then left out.

Users may obscure record locations to protect personal privacy. I do this frequently and it’s a legitimate use of the system’s geoprivacy settings. Whether the species being reported is rare or common may not be a factor.


Absolutely, I obscure locations of things I see at my house, and they are nothing but common species. I don’t want people to be able see where I live because I post every moth the flies in the door. It’s not like any of it is scientifically important so who cares if a sparrow or dandelion was seen in your house or two miles away? Privacy is nice.

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It actually matters a lot, each metre matters, general area where species exists is known for scientists anyway, but of course it’s personal choice to obscure things.

I was not under the belief that obscured observations take longer to load than regular ones, rather, that it would take longer to load the additional observations assigned to that area as compared to loading only the observations truly within that area. For example, as I’m driving down a forest highway navigating to a location where I observed a butterfly two years prior I’d rather only see the observations actually made along the road and not ones that are not really in the locations where they are depicted. I think the page could refresh faster on my iPhone using cellular data if the information being presented was only the information I was interested in and no additional superfluous data. It would also make it easier for me to navigate and tap on individual observations if fewer are presented.

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