this is a place to discuss general policy issues and questions regarding geoprivacy, obscuring observations, and auto-obscuring. If you have specific feature requests related to this please post them as feature requests. This is more a place for general discussion.
Please do not post loopholes or weaknesses in the obscuring mechanism in this thread or elsewhere in the forum. For obvious reasons, if you find something like that we don’t want it visible to anyone else. Instead, it’s best to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Broadly, I made this thread because i think there are a few large scale issues and questions that come up. Feel free to add your own
Firstly, the display of obscured observations can be problematic. I know there are programming and mapping limitations, but the randomly placed point consistently causes confusion. As more observations are added, the obscured observations also totally cover the map. See below, in Los Angeles, for example. (circles obscured)
Secondly, once you zoom out a bit you can’t tell which observations are obscured, which makes range maps and such confusing.
I personally would be in favor of having the obscured observations display like Ebird does when zoomed out (but the non obscured ones stay the same). Ideally the obscured ones would also be in a different (non sticky) layer that could be turned on and off. I don’t know how hard that is to do with the current map engine though. See below again.
Thirdly, it would be nice to tighten up what is auto obscured. Anything with collection and harassment risk should be obscured. However, there is also the odd case of common plant species like white oak being obscured when their range edge clims the edge of an administrative unit. It makes us harder to look at the distribution of white oak in terms of climate change, invasives, etc, if it is obscured on the edge of the range due to an arbitrary overlap with a human created boundary. Of course, if the species has collection or harassment risk, it should be obscured. But without describing what we are doing, it can seem arbitrary. And it isn’t clear who should be contacted if there’s an obscuring issue. I’ve been trying to track down someone in Quebec to ask to unobscure these common tree species, but it isn’t even clear who obscured them in the first place and i don’t think one curator should unilaterally undo it anyway. We need a policy.
I realize this is a hard topic because people have very strong opinions ranging from ‘obscure nothing ever’ to ‘obscure everything always’. I don’t think either of those are a good option, and I think iNaturalist does a good job of walking the balance. I just think we also need a ‘tighter’ way to deal with this.