Ideas on hiding or adjusting precision of location data

Is there a way to hide or adjust the precision of the location data for an observation of a protected species? I occasionally volunteer on rare plant surveys with the MN DNR. Some of these species have state or federal protected status. It would be unethical, not to mention not allowed by the DNR, to post observations of these species on an open forum like iNaturalist with the location data freely available. I’d like to share photos of some of these species, but I don’t want to reveal their whereabouts. Can the precision of the location data be modified to give only a general location? Anybody dealt with this before?


In addition to obscuring the location, as egordon88 linked to, there’s always the option of simply not posting an observation of a rare species.


Thanks. I assumed the topic had been addressed somewhere on iNat. I should have looked more thoroughly before posting the question.

True, and more often than not I don’t post observations of listed species. Sometimes it’s nice to post a photo of a species that the overwhelming majority of people will never see, and to let them know that the species is still alive and well and hanging in there somewhere. Just not EXACTLY where.


I do the same.

I also like to post photos of rare plants with obscured locations to help people identify rare species. For quite a few of our rare Nevada plants, there are no photos online. If someone is trying to determine if the plant they saw is a rare species, it’s helpful to have reference images available.


I recommend that you post them but “obscure” the location. Or choose a point sort of nearby as the location and apply a large enough “accuracy” circle to include the real location, and then “obscure” that.


Obscuring is an option, but you can also privatize the location entirely in the geoprivacy settings, and you can also set the range to be very big. I’ve seen people set the range to an entire state, as well as privatizing and then giving a description of the location in the notes. Neither are perfect workarounds and I personally think obscuring is the ideal solution, but there’s other options for what suits you best.


I will note that it is not necessarily unethical to post observations of all protected species - it depends for what reason/s the species are protected. Some species are protected for reasons that are unrelated to human collection or disturbance, so observations of these species generally don’t need to be obscured. In fact, many state/national agencies have been working to evaluate and set iNat geoprivacy data for these species to unobscured to assist in conservation.


I volunteer with those same MN DNR rare plant surveys. Yes, obscuring the location is the simple answer. Besides rare and listed species, I also obscure all observations of orchids, owl nests, highly sought after forageables, anything where poaching is a risk.


An advantage of posting with the correct location and obscuring is that you can choose to share the real location with researchers, and it’s always there, accessible to you, should you want to refer to it.


If you do set the location to obscured or private, remember to check your project settings too!

For any traditional projects you join, the default option is to allow the Project Coordinators see the location of your obscured locations, when you add them yourself:

I may be wrong, but I think you only can access that setting when you are joining the project. So if you want to change that setting for projects you already joined, you have to leave the project (you can let your observations remain), then join it again. When you join again, you can select No to sharing the true coordinates of obscured locations.

See @deboas 's comment below; you can adjust these settings in your project membership.
And per the notes in my screenshot, you can adjust them on a per case basis.


You can change this setting at any time - go to the project page and click on Your Membership to adjust this setting


I also see the text in my screenshot goes on to say those are the defaults, and individual observations can have different settings.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.