Geoprivacy, Obscuring, and Auto Obscure Discussion

I think you wanted to say “presumption to be open” here, if you were summarizing my thoughts… :wink:


You’re right. I’ll edit that!


I hope this does not devolve into a revisit of the past discussions over whether species obscurations should or should not take place, because that’s not the aim.

I was checking to see if species that are protected locally are still obscured, and I found that they are not. This seems like it may be an oversight. There are many species that are LC globally, but are Near Threatened up to Endangered regionally (by country), especially in areas regions where poaching is common.

It seems that if we are going to be obscuring protected species there should be some consideration given to national status as well.

An example of this is the Golden Birdwing (Troides aeacus), a type of butterfly, in Vietnam. This is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, but it is considered a CITES II species is included in the Red Data Book of Vietnam (periodic publication that lists protected species in the country).

None of the observations of Troides aceacus in Vietnam are obscured, even though nationally it’s considered a protected species.

There are a number of other species like this not only for Vietnam, but for many other places as well, particularity in SE Asia.

I think it’s worth considering whether an effort should be made to initiate country-by-country observation obscurations based on whether a species is protected nationally, and not just relying on groups like the IUCN to determine status.

I’m really not trying to start a pros-and-cons of observation obscurations in genral discussion, those have been had numerous times in the past, but I think there is some value in discussion how we support national protection efforts, not just international ones.


@earthknight I moved your post into this existing topic which is addressing the same concerns. For example, see this post above.

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I saw that, thanks.

The only issue with long threads like this is that things tend to get deeply buried and the topic sort of lost as the thread evolves.

I certainly see the need for consolidation though.


Yeah things get buried in long threads or if not consolidated, confusing with multiple threads about the same thing. Either way. :man_shrugging:


I agree that National listing/protection should be considered in decisions to obscure or not obscure. My only caveat is that such decisions not be automatic, but instead get considered case-by-case to make sure that obscuring iNat locations does in fact

and not inadvertently hinder them. It all depends on what the actual threats are for a particular species. In the case of substantial poaching threats, locations should definitely be obscured. In many cases this will already have been done because of similar concerns globally. But where poaching is a more localized national issue, then that is certainly a reason to obscure within that nation.

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I agree, but there are some cases nationally where observations should probably be obscured by default… and the other way, in some areas certain species otherwise obscured by default should not be.

For example, globally Burmese Pythons (Python bivittatus) is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, but is considered Endangered in several countries in SE Asia due to poaching. However, in Florida in the US it is a prolific invasive species.

In cases like that a regional default approach makes more sense to my mind. By default obscure it in its native range, and in areas adjacent to that (to reflect the fact that range maps are often incorrect), but in the southern US states where it is a destructive invasive species ensure that the default is not to obscure observations.

However you slice it, it’s a complicated subject.

In my region poaching is a massive problem, complicating things even more.


I’m really not confident this is a viable approach to get the stuff that really needs obscuring protected. You are talking about a manual review of tens of thousands of national or regional listings. Maybe even hundreds of thousands.

As it is right now flags being added by users to highlight missing listings or candidates for obscuring get ignored and never acted on by curators. And these number in the dozens, way below the volume a one off approach would generate if followed through on. My sense is the primary reason they get ignored is the lack of guidance or a standard framework to direct how to proceed.

And a one off approach still brings back the issue of inconsistent decision making being made by different curators applying different standards etc.

I’m sure I’m seen as just repeating myself, but a consistent approach to take is far cleaner. Make it like where we are going with taxonomy. This is the starting point, and then look for and discuss deviations. And I’m uncomfortable with that starting point being everything is open.


Just to flag it here, fyi:

GBIF expects to release a new version of Arthur Chapman’s guidance on publishing sensitive species data for community review within the next few weeks. This guide will update and replace the one Arthur and Oliver Grafton prepared in 2008.

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I just want to link to this discussion on twitter, repeating concerns that obscuration is not doing enough to protect certain species, especially herps, from poaching.

Ugh some of the comments there are annoying. There seems to a widespread idea that the staff have insisted on not implementing protections for sensitive species and user privacy. In addition to comments like that in that Twitter thread and mentioned elsewhere on the forum, I saw this comment on facebook recently:

FYI, iNat submissions are commonly used by poachers to illegally collect reptiles and amphibians, and they know this but refuse to do anything about it (such as censor sensitive species, which ebird does to prevent poaching/ harassment for some species).

He never replied to comments with more details about those claims… eBird doesn’t even let you hide the location of your house like iNat does.

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I don’t want to get too into it on here but there’s a contingent within the herper community (edit: not including the person who made the linked tweet!) with alterior motives that resurfaces this exact same claim every year or two. I don’t know when to inform and when to ignore. I get drawn into arguments too easily.

I’m assuming that in this case the person had a good-faith concern about large-scale collecting of a non-threatened species. I informed him that it’s possible to flag a species and explain why it should be obscured in an area, and if the case is convincing a curator can do that. He responded positively.

Some of the comments reflected a lack of knowledge about how iNat works, and that observations of many species are obscured. Like many others, I think this can still be refined further to un-obscure species that are not threatened by having their locations public, and to obscure certain taxa in certain places where open locations poses a real problem. I think the best approach is to invite people with concerns to participate in the community.


Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply the person who made the first tweet was part of that contingent. I don’t think that at all.

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No worries! I wasn’t sure if you meant the same person or others. I think there are real issues here, and there is a balance to be struck between protecting species and maintaining the usefulness of the data (which in turn can be helpful for the conservation of species). From my perspective, iNaturalist is continuing to make progress towards perfecting that balance.

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As a relatively new user, I am struggling to wade through all of the information on the forum about what the current process is for handling species that are regionally significant/vulnerable.

I can see the general guidelines about geoprivacy (, and also the curator guidelines about how/when to edit the geoprivacy on a taxon (

However, it is clear that this discussion is far from over, and I would love to see a summary somewhere of the current status so that I don’t need to read through pages and pages of a forum thread and find information that probably isn’t current anymore anyway. Perhaps in a wiki?

For example, how are we going with feature requests that were mentioned over a year ago in this thread? Have they been implemented already? Have they been rejected? One that comes to mind is a better system for documenting who/when/why the taxon geoprivacy settings are being changed, and making this visible. Has that been rejected in favour of the flag system?

And what is the latest thinking on regional vulnerability? Is there going to be a way of adding that? Also, it has been mentioned a couple of times in this thread that we don’t want to reopen the discussion about whether things should be obscured or not, but I haven’t read those, and although I don’t want to spend hours sifting through the threads, I would love to see a summary of pros/cons. Is there such a thing that someone could point me to?

I would be quite happy to get either/both of those things started (a wiki on the current processes for handling geoprivacy on iNaturalist, and a wiki on the pros/cons of geoprivacy in general), but I’m not even sure if maybe it already exists somewhere (please provide links if you know of such things), or if there is a better way of handling it, and I would definitely need a lot of support with editing the content, as I am not a power user yet.

Thank you everyone for your willing and thorough input into this forum! I am so thrilled to have found it and to be a part of it!


When I view all my records in the Map view, the locations of obscured records are obscured from me (the exact location is visible on the map for each record though). Often I want to revisit a record. Ideally, I would use the explore function in the map view to locate the record (rather than having to scroll through all my records to find it). I’ve just discovered that, for the records with obscured geoprivacy, the locations are obscured for everyone, including me!

Is it possible for me to see the exact locations of my own records on the Explore/Map view but they remain obscured for everyone else?

I see my options are to change the location privacy to open for all my records (which I don’t want to for sensitive species) or start using Google Maps to store my records that I want to revisit.

Are there other solutions? @nicklambert, any thoughts?

Short answer is that I don’t know of a way to ‘unobscure’ your own obs pins in map view.

When I have this issue I generally use the filters in explore as much as possible, I also zoom the map in to a point I’m confident and hit the ‘redo search in map’ orange button which reduces the number of records I’m looking through. I switch between map view and grid view to find the record. This works for me most of the time, but yes you are right, the obscuring makes it tricky sometimes.

I do two other things to find records:

Sorry I can’t be of more help!



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