How to handle location tags of observations I make in my garden/ on my balcony? (privacy)

I didn’t find anything about this in the Forum so i thought I’d just ask.

How do you guys handle location tags of observations you make in your garden/ on your balcony or similar?
I’ d like to upload a precise location but at the same time I don’t really feel comfortable with publicly sharing the exact address of where I live with everyone. If there are a lot of observations that were obviously made in a garden/ on a balcony anyone can figure out that this is where I live.
Should I just obscure the location or how do you guys handle this?

Thank you in advance.


I just obscure the location. That is one of the purposes of having that feature available, so why not use it?


The obscure function just changes the location by that much.
For example if it is a record of a species that can only survive in bigger cities with their warmer micro climate i think it’s informative for people to see that this species was found in my home town and not somewhere in a meadow outside of town. That information could get lost when obscuring.
That’s why i just thought maybe there is a more elegant / subtle solution that i just didn’t think of yet.

You can “manually” obscure a location by moving the center of the accuracy circle to a different location and then adjusting the radius of the accuracy circle so that it includes the correct location. There’s some debate on the appropriateness of this, but it seems reasonable in some cases to me. You could also just submit the ID as a town name or place (these come with varying accuracy circles).

Both of these will potentially reduce the usability of the observation for some purposes, but there’s trade-offs to everything.


I have made a pinned location for my suburb. Centred it on the Civic Centre. My home is in that circle. For a Casual / Not Wild / commonorgarden plant that is enough information.

And I have made myself a tag - False Bay Garden. Which seemed a simpler option than creating a Project for My Garden to me.

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I would think the obscure settings would work pretty well in the cases you describe. It will hide your location, but you can still share the exact location with other users you trust or as needed.


True coordinates are only visible to you, trusted users, and trusted project curators. iNaturalist Network organizations, in their respective countries, can view true coordinates for taxa set to automatically obscure, but they can only view your manually obscured coordinates if you choose to affiliate with the network in your account settings.


Are true coordinates visible to GBIF even if you obscure your coordinates?

GBIF? Well, I would have assumed not, but I am not such a user. So, perhaps someone with greater knowledge can explain more about that.

I personally just put the name of the city I live, as my home is inside the circle it generates. I don’t use the ‘obscure’ option because it would sprawl all the observations across the city and I don’t like how it looks (most of my observations are made in my home).

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if you want the true location of an observation at your home to be relatively private (but not totally private / hidden), i believe these are the 3 things you need to do:

  1. make sure your photos are taken without location EXIF data, or else strip out that metadata before you load them into the system. (the EXIF data will be loaded into the system and may be displayed to logged-in users, unless the associated observation has obscured or private geoprivacy.)
  2. manually input the location of your observations, with the center located somewhere relatively public and an accuracy circle large enough to encompass the true location of your observation and to prevent your true location from being easily guessed. (you can save this as a pinned location so that you can reference it in future uploads.)
  3. use a user name that is not easily traced to your true identity. if someone can track you down, then it wouldn’t be difficult for a determined investigator to figure out where your observations were made.

it is true that the system provides an option for obscured geoprivacy on your observations. but there are things about that functionality that make me personally uncomfortable enough with it that i would discourage most folks from using it.

no, the obscured coordinates are loaded to GBIF and other data aggregators.


Is that true for species which the site automatically obscures (rare stuff?)

I do simuler to @dianastuder
I have pinned a major intersection close to my residence, with the accuracy radius including my abode.
I do not like to use the obscure function. While I understand the desire for privacy, it not nice ID’ing a organism way out of its natural area (intentionally plotted/obscured). A tree out at sea, or a fish on a mountain peak.
Why state it is your home in the first place. If you upload obs from other areas, and often on someone elses property, do you still obscure the location, or pin point it as it is not your property?

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Now I feel like I have a big conundrum as I have been using the obscure option for a long time now. If I want to switch my past obscured locations to a “pinned” location including my home, is there a way to batch edit those? I’m talking thousands of obs.

This is a good point, and one reason why the built in obscure functionality can be quite useful, because it does provide an easy option to share coordinates if they prove valuable. You can join a project and iNat will allow you to share coords with just project folks without revealing them to all users).

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I’m new to making observations, but I’ve just been using the nearest cross street. It’s very close to my house and surely someone could still find me if they tried, but it feels safer than using my exact address.

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May I ask, what do you feel are those drawbacks? Is the area too big? Other factors?

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I use the obscure function since I live in a sparsely populated area near several nature preserves. If I used a large circle of uncertainty, people might easily figure out where I live or think that the obs was from a preserve rather than private property.

It would be nice if there were two levels of obscuring. Two different sized boxes to choose from. The smaller one would be nice for people who just don’t want people to know where their house is (in cities) and the larger would be good for obscuring locations of organisms (some rare ones are already auto-obscured).

I found it much easier to batch add obs to a project than to batch add tags. Here’s my project:


I don’t hide them, if you post a lot it’s easy to find out where you live no matter how you hide it. Address itself chosen automatically is usually weird, sometimes completely wrong.

yes, as far as i know.

just for example, here’s an example of a probable bald eagle flyover that i made at one of my local parks. i’m going to reveal the true location that i see here because i’m not aware of a bird living at that location currently. (this one must have been just passing through.):

here’s what i see in GBIF for the same observation (note the coordinates are different – the blue x on the map that shows where the true location is marking a different location than the blue pin, and the orange circle shows the numerical lat / long that GBIF has):

Please do anything else you want, but don’t use “private.” That completely hides your location. We don’t even know what continent it is on! Often that makes identification impossible, and always it makes identification seem not worthwhile (to me).

Use “obscured.” It works well enough. Or use a nearby location with a large enough value under “accuracy” that your house is in the circle. Either is good enough. Or, if you don’t feel particularly unsafe, use the actual location.