Location data for observation automatically changed to my home address

Bit of a weird one. I took the photo at this observation (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/35805661) in Garigal National Park somewhere around -33.741971, 151.184535. I then uploaded it to iNat via the iOS app at a bus stop a few km away. But when I checked the location afterwards, it had somehow been recorded as my home address 30km away. How is this even possible?

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I would guess that it used your device location at time of upload rather than GPS from image metatags, and that the upload never actually took place (completed) until you got home and came into range of your home wifi. This might happen if you had cellular data turned off…


Unfortunately not. I had cellular data turned on, and it finished uploading when I was still at the bus stop (and I noticed the error while still at the bus stop)

It’s possible that the last good location fix your phone had was at your house, and that this was still the phone’s “location” while in the national park. I have noticed this happen too, in cases where the phone does not get a location fix. Multiple observations will adopt the location of the last good fix. A solution is to open a mapping app and ensure that your location has been updated before making an observation.


What version of the iOS app were you using? And can you send the original image to help@inaturalist.org?

I always set the location manually using the satellite view on the map, so I can follow the trail to where I took the photo. We don’t have GPS or cellphone coverage across our national parks.

(And I would disable a default that showed my home address)

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I can understand the cellphone coverage, but it’s hard to imagine anywhere on Earth not covered by GPS or equiv location services.

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Occasionally, it takes your phone a while to acquire the GPS satellites and determine your location. When creating an observation with my phone, I always press on the location field and watch the blue dot drift and settle, before saving the observation.


Thanks for the replies guys.

This one isn’t the case either as I uploaded two other observations from the park on my phone as well, a few minutes before this one, and they picked up the location perfectly.

I’m using v2.8.4. I’ll send the original now @carrieseltzer.

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I know that my location was being tracked accurately as I was opening the map app regularly and tracking the blue dot (me) as I was actually walking a new path and wanted to make sure I didn’t get lost.

Ok so it turns out I deleted the original off my phone after I uploaded it…(I have basically zero space on my phone)

those other 2 observations were uploaded before the one of interest, but it looks like the one of interest was observed first (based on observed date). so it’s possible that since it was the first to be observed chronologically, it used the last location that your phone had a fix on, which could be that bus stop near your house. then after your phone figured out it was in the National Park, you made the other 2 observations.

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I should clarify the bus stop was right outside the national park, nowhere near my house either.

And I had used my phone and data earlier while in the park to read my emails, as well as using it extensively while on the train and bus travelling into the park, so I’m baffled why it didn’t take any of those locations instead.

sorry. my earlier comment should reference your house, not the bus stop near your house. unless you’re actively using a mapping function, some phones might not constantly update location. that saves on battery usage. also, if you’re in a train or on the bus, it might not be able to do proper GPS or cell tower triangulation. who knows?

i think the bottom line is probably still that the last location your phone had a fix on was your house, and that was what ended up on the observation of interest.

Might still be in your deleted photos album, unless you purged that as well.

I did :( (when I say I have basically zero space, I actually mean literally zero…)

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If I don’t have internet access, if I am out of range, how can I get GPS coordinates.

locations can be determined using wifi positioning, cell tower positioning, or GPS positioning. for GPS positioning, the only thing you need is a view of at least 4 GPS satellites and your GPS device (no internet needed).

I can confirm, GPS works everywhere in South Africa even without any cellular signal. In fact I go into flight mode to save battery which means I have no cell or internet connection but GPS works fine (I usually am connected to an average of 13 satellites anywhere in South Africa. It’s only in deep gorges that GPS can go awry).