iNaturalist and Search Engines

Okay, I don’t know how I feel about this but these screenshots I took are just creepy.

It’s not just Google, it’s Bing, DuckDuckGo and I’m sure many more. These images are most likely on Google, and everything else by now. The only URLs and images I would really want on search engines are a link to my profile and when you tap images, just my profile picture to show up. Not every image I ever uploaded to the forum and iNat. Even my observation photos show.

Also when you search my old username stuff comes up.

You could try using a robot.txt file but all that will block is Google.

I can’t think of any advantages of search engines indexing this. Can anyone else? Is this happening for other users? If you can, please make it so only a link to my profile and my profile photo comes up when you search my username.


CREEPY!! When I search, the people who follow me’s profile images come up, i.e Brant Magic and Torgos23. Yours are just plain creepy.

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I don’t really understand what part of this is creepy to you. iNaturalist is a website, any information you put on it you should expect to be public, except things that are in the ToS as protected information. This goes for anything you put on the internet.


I understand that. Hackers can search my name, find all my profiles and hack them. Yes, they would check Facebook, Twitter and all those big ones but do they need to know everything? No. Search Engines are making it too easy to find all this. I understand it can be used for good. But it can also be used for bad.


Looks like someone’s famous :flushed:


I think erring on the side of paraneoia might be a bit too much in this sort of scenario. There’s no reason for a hacker to target your profiles unless you give them one. And even then, it’s unnecessary effort on their part.

Hacking iNaturalist literally doesn’t help with anything… the only personal information saved is your email (if you use one) and IP address. Getting your email isn’t really a big deal, you can just set your spam filter and everything will be fine. Getting your IP address can be done easier ways than “hacking”, so there’s not really an issue there.

Search engines aren’t going to make your account more likely to be hacked…


If this is a really big issue for you, you can make a feature request to have more restrictions on what search engines can access, but I don’t know if it will get accepted; just seems unnecessary to me.


I find it creepy too. When I started using iNaturalist, I decided to not obscure the location of my observations. One could easily use those to track me down from those locations. Most of the time when I post on a public forum, I use a screenname different from my real name and an email addy just for that site. I’m using my real name here (more or less). If you search on it, the real me comes up in the first couple of hits. I know there is more information about me on the web than I would like, but I do try to minimize it.


Isn’t this a good thing? I know everybody has different reasons for using iNaturalist, but at it’s core, isn’t it about sharing the work you do to observe the natural world? Hopefully somebody does a Bing/Google/DuckDuckGo image search for a species, and they stumble upon some of your hard work. And then best case scenario, you’ve recruited a new user! :)

But I get if that’s not how you feel about it. If you want to reduce your visibility in search results, you may want to take all the cross links out of your various social media profiles (you’ve got quite a few that link to external sites in your bio). The more cross links you have, the easier search engine spiders will find you. You could simply break the links by spelling out “DOT” instead of using periods in links. Although the damage may already be done… The spiders already found you! hahaha


maybe im technologically ignorant but i have no idea how this would make hacking easier since they would already have to know your name to google it


A side note, especially concerning kids, students: they mostly have some grasp of privacy and although they post a lot of info they avoid giving out their physical location.
But give them inaturalist and a good phone GPS and you may have a cloud of observation points centered on their home. Mix this geolocalisation with the rest of their info on social network and it will get creepy.

Let’s make people we introduce to Inat aware of that…


Nothing creepy about it, if you search any of nickname or name you use you will find photos linked to you, it’s a good think, and it’s not connecte to “hackers”, why would anybody want to hack you personally, on iNat? You’re not a politic or someone important for goverment, nobody cares that much to do it with your info. Anything you put online, think it’s something anyone can access, they can sell personal info, as Facebook does all the time, but what negative side is for you from it? Nothing, otherise Fb wouldn’t get out so easy from each scandal. And these are just pics on Google, not your adress or phone number, it doesn’t help anyone with anything.


Haha! After reading your reply I guess there’s a good thing. Now I feel proud…


Are people doing these “vanity searches” in incognito mode? Keep in mind that search engines like google will bias your results based on your prior use patterns.


Yes. In the image you can see the brave incognito mode icon.


A search engine is nothing but a computer accessing the web in the same way a user can. Yes, the respectable search engines follow good manners by announcing to the website that they are a search engine and following the rules set for them by the website in robots.txt - and in return, they get freer access, because if a normal user started crawling through a website in such a comprehensive manner as they do, they will probably get stopped by a protection against too many requests that’s usually present.

But that’s all they do - they collect information that is already public. If Google did not exist, you could index iNaturalist yourself and get exactly the same information as you see here, simply because this is shown for everyone on the website. It would be technically more challenging to do, that’s all.

If someone wanted to “hack your profiles”, they would find them regardless of your presence on iNaturalist. The fact that you took some pictures of animals is not of a very high interest for someone would would want to “hack” you, whatever that actually means, because such activity would be inevitably done for money and there is not too much money in pretty dandelions. Don’t think that just because your profiles wouldn’t be listed, they would be hard to find …


I do find it disconcerting that this forum - is open to anyone who signs up. You do NOT need an iNat profile to be in these conversations.
Which are also public.

The clusters of obs around my house I avoid by making a pinned location, for my suburb, centred on our Civic Centre and library. Near enough for iNat to ID, but not to say THIS is MY Home.

We have to take responsibility for the information we choose to make public, and searchable. The digital natives, generations born into social media, know that. Silver surfers have to learn netiquette from kids ;~)

Since the first bioblitz iNat no longer shows actual street addresses lifted from your cellphone location. That was simply wrong and an invasion of privacy. (Not MY problem, since I use a camera, then set the location for each photo)


This is exactly what I do, and I think everyone should do this. Range of accuracy is something that people need to use more, instead of just assuming that they need to either obscure the location or make it super accurate.


This is what I get from my username, although who knows if that’s what other people will see.


You got full screenshots of iNat pages!
I get diferent results in my normal non-incognito mode for you:

It’s kinda weird shows my old profile pic instead of new one. Adore those links in the header from Flora of Russia somehow got associated with my name. Almost sad that all shown is from iNat while I use this nickname and its variatians for more than 10 years.