Is there some sort of resource that suggests students be asked to include an ID or token in their photos?

As someone who has run multiple projects as a professor (and for middle and high schoolers), the issues with students copy-pasting pics are real. But I’ve always told other teachers that if you don’t have the time to monitor your own project to some extent, iNat projects/assignments probably aren’t a good choice for you.

A course card with a ruler for scale on it and no PII (and hopefully a guideline to not have it take up most of the picture) seems a much better choice than a random token. It will be much less confusing for IDers, likely not mess with the AI (hopefully), and would be much easier for a teacher to check. Trying to remember each student’s random token object would get more confusing than Inception.

If this is becoming more frequent and is a problem, having some type of clear documentation to point towards about it (on an official iNat page) would probably be useful. I do sometimes leave comments/PMs for teachers who are running projects in which students are engaging in non-optimal behavior, and having a clear text to link to is a big help in communicating. Most of the teachers are well-intentioned and happy to change behavior ( but they just don’t have much time to put into planning, etc).


It’s happening again today. As a non-educator, I wonder whether someone who has actual experience teaching students using iNat would be willing to write up a brief guide on how to discourage copying of images without compromising students’ personal information? Or maybe add that to an existing teaching guide? It would be great to be able to link to good advice when I flag these images.


Not a mommy or a teacher, but with laws around protection of personal information - I am amazed that teachers are not trained, and students aware - that this is bad practice (and possibly illegal depending on local laws?)


I know I’m probably insane but I think the advice of including hands/fingers (for scale) in observations is potentially harmful as well – I’ve seen the advice somewhere, probably on this forum. I get the idea, scale is good, but I’d never intentionally post a photo of my fingerprints on the internet. iNat’s CV is pretty good from what I’ve seen. Imagine what would happen if a bad actor used the same tech to look at fingerprints. Worse than an ID card I reckon. Just my opinion though and maybe I’m paranoid, I don’t know.

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Fingerprints are used too rare and for that they’re needed much more information than just photo of your finger, who’d want to forge your international passport and why? Also “finger for scale” means upper part it, not a crystal clear shots inner part of distal phalanx from different angles.

I don’t know why, but biometrics is a big thing and will only become bigger in the future I guess. I often see observations with photos of more than a little bit of a fingerprint. I never say anything, each to their own. I just find it a bit concerning… I guess it’s because I don’t know how fingerprints will be used in the future. I do know that a fingerprint (and probably a photo of, or some kind of cast made from a photo), right now, can get me access to my work building. Probably my phone as well :) I can’t do either of those things with an ID card, but I can with a fingerprint


Regular user of iNat doesn’t use fingerprints for that though, if you do, sure it makes sense, but otherwise it’s like asking people to not use their real names, if they want they will do so. If your phone is stolen you need to take safety measures in any way.

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Yeah I didn’t mean to make a big deal out of it. It’s just something that I, personally, worry about. You’re probably right and it means nothing but I just won’t post photos of my fingerprints :)


I’m not too worried about my fingerprints (as a ‘legal alien’ in the US, I get photographed and fingerprinted every time I travel internationally so my biometrics are in the databases already anyway and I’m sure I would quickly get some questions from the authorities if someone used them for nefarious purposes), but I’ve ID’d poison ivy leaves held in children’s hands. That makes me worry more. When we had a local BioBlitz, I made sure to point out the ‘look but don’t touch because it will hurt you’ plants to the kids in my group. We were picking milkweed leaves for a monarch caterpillar cage and I made it a point to bring gloves and tell them all to thoroughly wash their hands before touching any food or their faces because the milky sap is both poisonous and can badly burn your eyes if you accidentally rub it in there. I don’t know enough about mushrooms to tell which ones are poisonous, but I’ve been told by folks more knowledgeable that some of the little brown ones you really don’t want to touch with bare hands as just licking your fingers after touching them could kill you. So I always hope that all the observers I see holding mushrooms in their hands on iNat know what they’re doing.


Licking hands after touching even the most poisonous shroom won’t kill you and probably won’t have any visible effect, eating though is another matter.

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I’m not familiar with the mushrooms here so I don’t know and it could be just an entertaining tale for the trail. However, I have seen knowledgeable mycologists use gloves to handle certain mushrooms. There are some plants around that you wouldn’t want to touch without gloves, e.g. several species of Aconitum, which has a neurotoxin that can be absorbed through skin especially small wounds like scrapes and scratches. Unfortunately Heracleum mantegazzianum has popped up as an invasive in my county as well. I know that plant from Europe where I’ve seen folks don hazmat suits to remove it. I’ve seen pictures of it with a human right next to it to show scale, probably unaware of the risk they’re taking.

Those are precautions (and if you can use gloves - do that!), shrooms danger was discussed on the forum not long ago, you can look it up, you don’t want to have mild effects like stomach problems too, even if you won’t die it’s just not a happy thing to have.
Heracleum are only dangerous if you cut the leaf (if you don’t have any personal reaction), their juice is dangerous (and even if you get it on yourself - hide that part from the sun and wash as soon as possible, otherise they’re ok plants), I sat under them (sosnowskyi) a lot hiding to photograph ducks, as long as you don’t injure leaves you’re safe. So “human standing next to plant” isn’t dangerous at all, when you cut them you need a suit to protect you from the sap.
From what I read poison ivy works the same way, but I really never researched that plant.

i’ve never heard of fingerprints lifted from a photo of a hand but maybe it’s possible, however that ship has already sailed because i have my real name on my inat profile anyway. I think about that like yeah, google may track my location but i share it publicly on inat all the time anyway.

Also i assume all apps harvest spatial data on a user even when you turn it off, and also probably listen to you, but i am sufficiently boring that i am just adding noise to their database. if i were actually doing something i was worried about hiding i wouldn’t have my phone.


Thanks for all the replies regarding fingerprints. I realise now that I was being unnecessarily paranoid :)

I haven’t heard of including a personal artifact in a photo as an official best practice, but I have heard of teachers recommending it informally and not just for iNaturalist.

For middle and high school, I strongly recommend against teachers assigning all students making iNat observations. Rather, the value of iNaturalist at that level is analyzing the data to understand biodiversity, biomes, habitats, trophic levels, and adaptations.


Because there are several kids who handle photoshop with admirable skill, while they fail pitifully as soon as they have to leave the digital world at all.

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Haha, I thought I was the only one! People put their birthdays on random websites as well, so at that point you might as well add your childhood pet’s name and street you grew up on.

I wonder if the CV could detect and blur fingerprints? Probably too resource-intensive, but would be helpful if fingerprints do become the primary form of ID verification.