Is there any way to get more IDs on observations with private locations?

Pretty much the title. I notice most/all of my observations with private locations are simply not ID and I think its mostly because people get notified of new observations in certain locations instead of based on species etc. Is there a way to have the post/observation show up without giving away the location to get more posts to RG instead of NEEDS ID?

I like to keep my herp related observations either very obscured (which decreases location accuracy so i dont use it often / at all) or private with a location description in the caption.

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I doubt it. As you said, these observations won’t show up in many common searches or on people’s dashboards with place subscriptions.

As an IDer, and with the taxa I deal with (herps), I’m not generally willing to give IDs for observations with no locality info at all. There are so many potential taxa organisms can be without knowing a location.

Personally, I also find the value of observations without any locality data to be very minimal. I guess a private observation that had the first photos of a species for iNat or something like that might be pretty useful, but other than that, I’d prefer to spend my time working on what I feel are more valuable observations.

On a side note, if a location is provided in the notes, I think this defeats the purpose of a private location to some extent. If an organism is really desirable, and collectors are really after it, they’re going to be crawling through observations looking for little details. If an observation really needs to be private, I would suggest not adding any location info. If some broad location info (county, state, whatever) can be added, then observers can just add that (which will have a big old uncertainty radius).


For most species locality information is relevant for reliable ID. I for one never add identifications to observations without locality data.


I regularly identify with the “verifiable” button unchecked in order to encounter observations missing date and/or location in hopes of getting those out of the “casual” category. This also brings up the private location observations. However, location is such an important component of identifying that I rarely identify something that is marked location private. Rather, I just mark it as “reviewed” and move on.


Private observations for the most part live in a world of their own separate from the rest of INaturalist. I am of the opinion that its just not needed on the site at all and creates more issues than solves. Especially with how it is so difficult to find private observations, i worry how many are misidentified and influencing the CV and you just don’t know. They literally exist in void space.


First, I would strongly consider not using Private at all. It makes observations almost completely useless. Look into Obscured instead. Here’s some of mine:
Hidden, but show up on range maps to county at least. Which brings up an issue with Private locations: sometimes the range is needed to make an ID. I have finished off entire species datasets, but will still often skip Private observations due to not knowing where it was.

If Private must be used, than perhaps consider looking into projects. An active project where the project curators can be trusted with the coordinates may get some ID’s.


I will ID private observations when they come up in taxon searches if I can, but I can almost never ID such observations to species. I think having these as Research Grade is a little paradoxical as location is essential for research.


Yeah having uploaded over 55,000 observations, I have never once used private. It just completely destroys the reason i upload in the first place. Data creation. Private observations won’t be used in science, wont contribute to species maps, won’t get included in the GBIF, etc.


Agreed, I don’t think private observations should be able to reach RG.


unless somebody is going through based on species, it seems unlikely. but it really comes down to how people are filtering things. i often filter by species and include rg, casual and needs id, so private locations are included. for some species, location isn’t that important and in those cases, that’s great. but that method won’t work for everybody and definitely won’t work for a lot of species.

i’m mainly identifying cats so you can imagine location doesn’t really make a big difference, other than when it comes to types of literal wild cats, not like feral, but other species of cats. usually it’s just domestic cats though and it doesn’t matter if it’s in the states or russia, you can tell it is a domestic cat.

I agree with those posting that location is an important and irreplaceable part of their identification process, and I also avoid identifying Private-marked observations. I’m curious why you feel Obscured is less preferred than Private?
Obscuring observations still retains some location information, and I use it frequently on my own observations, since in my PhD research many locations are binned by map grid cell anyway for the purposes of analysis. Privatising observations entirely eliminates all location information, including accuracy.


In addition to what has been said already about location being an important piece of information for IDs, I always feel a bit cautious about adding an ID to a private observation. It’s like knocking on a door that has a “do not disturb” sign on it. If something is marked private, I assume the observer doesn’t really want to interact with the community and may not appreciate my input.


If, you are usually going to same area?
You can make a pinned location with a very much broader area - which will hopefully still provide enough info for identifiers.
Without location - I usually presume it is ‘in my private garden’ or a captive exotic pet for herps.

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If you feel that your observations are so sensitive that they need marked Private, maybe it’s best if you don’t upload them at all. There are TONS of clues to find out the location of such observations. This kind of thing is best kept on a personal blog…not a website where the goal is to share observations. Maybe use Seek and record all the information somewhere secure. - About 3/4 Down the Page: " It’s NOT a way to collect secret information"


Every so often I see people who want to keep their observation locations hidden, but seem to feel Obscured is insufficient for their purposes, and instead stick to Private (or even keeping it Public but deliberately moving the observation location far away, with or without a huge accuracy radius). I’d love to have a broader understanding of why Obscured is seen as inadequate by different people or for different purposes. Maybe Obscured can be made better, communicated more effectively, or both?

For example, I don’t understand what you mean by:

obscured (which decreases location accuracy so i dont use it often / at all)

Surely Private is all-around worse in terms of decreasing accuracy? Obscured at least puts the observation somewhere within a (still very large) rectangle that provides a rough idea of what part of the globe the organism was found. Personally, I use Obscured for observations that are in my home, my workplace, or in the immediate outdoor vicinity of either of those, and I’ve not felt that was insufficiently private.

I’ve only rarely seen observations with private IDs, but when I have, as others have said, even if I feel very confident in an ID if that organism were in my region, I just don’t know enough about possible lookalikes from all around the world. One of the observations I received during the Accuracy Experiment was private, for example, so without knowing if the observation was in Europe or in North America I wasn’t able to ID it as precisely as I’d have otherwise been able to. Plus, as far as I know, for some distinctions range is the only or the most reliable macroscopic feature that can be used to distinguish different taxa.


Here is a snippet from the site’s help documentation /

Private: No geographic information is shared publicly. Latitude, Longitude, and Locality Notes are completely hidden from the public (note that the timezone part of the date is still shown). Similarly, observations are ignored by all place-based observation searches (e.g. a private observation located in California would not be returned by a search of observations in California). The private setting should be used sparingly since the complete lack of geographic context makes it difficult or impossible for the community to identify observations or spot geographic data quality issues.

Let that impact your view of which of your own observations need to be marked private versus which can be obscured as you deem appropriate. Just know that for the most part, the only people who will “naturally” encounter your private observations are those who (1) are searching for all observations in the entire world (e.g. a global reptile expert who IDs reptiles from all around the world), or (2) are following you (in which case they’ll see if in their dashboard/feed, if I remember right).

Beyond that, as others have mentioned, no location at all can make ID difficult or even impossible even for those who do happen to encounter your private observations, and no location at all is probably not very helpful for most researcher use-cases. (If I’m studying the range of Genus specicum, an observation indicating that one was encountered “somewhere on Earth” on such-and-such date might not be very helpful to me.)

Regarding your last sentence:

I like to keep my herp related observations either very obscured (which decreases location accuracy so i dont use it often / at all) or private with a location description in the caption.

I just tested this and it looks like your location accuracy is unaffected for obscured locations, at least for you. I uploaded (since deleted) an observation with an accuracy of 9 meters and then set geoprivacy to obscured.

When I view the observation while logged in as myself I can see the original 9m bounding circle placed exactly where I placed it while uploading the observation:

When I view the observation while not logged in (or in an icognito/private window), I see an obscured box. (Note: The green dot is not in the same location as my actual observation.)

See my link above for more information on how Private vs. Obscured observations interact with search queries, and who can still see the unobscured location and under what circumstances.


For private observations (and those lacking any location), I’ll often look at the other observations from the user and infer a location from those. Then with my ID, I’ll add something like “Private Location: Based on locations of observer’s other observations, presumed to be in the Southeastern United States”.

I’ve only rarely encountered situations where someone has a private/unpinned observation that I’m interested in as well as obscured/public observations from locations more than 1000km apart apart from each other (like Europe and North America, or even Ohio and Florida), I’ll look to see where the other observations from the same period of time were.

If the observer have been active within the last few months, I’ll often ask for information on the location, mentioning that it’s usually necessary for ID.


I think one major benefit of private observations is when they are used in specific projects for data collection of SAR. I personally use the private location on sensitive species that I personally can confirm the ID of, but still upload on iNaturalist for the sake of including it in the project database. That way all species in the project can be exported together.

I’ll be real. My opinion of having the option to make observations completely private on INaturalist is tantamount to buying and keeping a snow shovel in southern Florida. Is it possibly useful? Sure. But the cases where it makes sense are just so incredibly rare. Keeping it around does more harm than good. In the case of the snow shovel it takes up space, gathers dust, and is overall a waste of money.

You know, I honestly don’t think INaturalist is a good way to record infectious human diseases. The idea that people will post observations presumably of themselves, "I’m infected with X’ is an uncomfortable thought. But that’s just my opinion, It is an interesting project.

Facebook is where I go to see really nice pictures of organisms that have no associated data. Which is in part why I don’t use Facebook.