Obscured Observations locations and Comments

Recently(past month), I have had over a thousand observations that I have obscured for reasons of privacy due to rare plants in the area. However, a few of my obscured observations have had their locations “revealed” by people making a comment about the location. I don’t know what to do for this, but I am concerned that it could lead poachers to rare plants.
Here are two examples from two different people
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/127786047
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/131739117

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I’d suggest checking out https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#geoprivacy, flagging the comment(s) in question or emailing help@inaturalist.org.

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Ok. It really puts me in a problematic situation because it doesn’t seem worthy of flagging, but still inappropriate. It’s just that I can’t hide their comments to protect it. I let the first one slide, but a second one is really putting me on edge(I feel responsible if someone poaches the rare plants nearby.)

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you can always send a private message to the individuals to ask them to retract their comments.

that said, i think you just have to accept that just any observation you post to iNaturalist with true coordinates – even if obscured – can potentially be located by third parties, regardless of whether you give them access to see those coordinates. the only way to really prevent others from finding locations is to not post them in the first place.

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I think it would be appropriate to flag if you make it clear that you don’t want the location shared. Obscuring the location should be enough but accidents happen, so commenting that you’d rather not the location be revealed might be helpful. If I saw a comment like this flagged, and you specify in the flag that you don’t want the location known, I would personally leave a comment for the commenter and give them a timeframe to remove it before hiding the comment myself. I think your boundaries should be respected but again, accidents happen and commenters might not realize they’re crossing a boundary at all.

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Maybe something strongly worded but not accusatory like: Sorry @username, it would be irresponsible of me to disclose any information about the location of this one because it’s frequently poached.

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This is true but not everybody will go through the effort to find them. Obscuring is a good way to prevent this and at least make it more difficult to get the actual coordinates. Somebody commenting specifics about a location has to be one of the easiest ways for others to discover it, and takes no effort from readers at that point, whereas using alternative methods of retrieving exact coordinates takes at least a little for some people. It’s not a perfect form of protection but it’s at least some form. Commenting revealing information removes that little bit of protection and I’d be very frustrated by that if it were happening to me so I see why this poses a problem.

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one more thing you could do is just to just duplicate the observation and then delete the original. not ideal, but it’ll get rid of the comments.

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For observations where I really don’t want the location disclosed, I find it helpful to both obscure the location and move it off some distance away that makes it difficult to figure out the true location, but still is geographically similar. Something like 500 m or 1/4 mi is good enough.

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Is the second one cultivated in the Botanical Garden? That would be freely available public information.

But the first one I would flag up @dallon (he is much more tactful than I would be) and I would definitely want that obscured location info deleted, not just ‘hidden’.

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If the observations are in protected/managed areas such as state parks or botanical gardens, it may also be worth talking to the rangers/curators about your concerns. I found a rare species at our local state parks that wasn’t on the public plant list for the park, and the rangers seemed appreciative of me notifying them about it. After all it’s their job, not mine, to keep track of the natural resources in the park and protect them from poachers. I also find they are usually thrilled to have someone show interest and concern for the plants under their care.

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I forgot to even say this. If you just @ me on a flag or the observation I would find that more than appropriate and would love to help. I personally obscure everything of mine, even though I know the protection of it is pretty slim. I like that layer still, so I’d like to keep it as firm as possible.

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The second one was in the botanical garden, but I had it obscured because in that botanical garden there are critically endangered native orchids that could have been taken. It wasn’t cultivated though, just spreading to new locations. It also isn’t public information that this exact plant was found there. I had no signs, markers, etc in the photo to give that away.

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right, or even if you dont post it someone may hack into your computer, or aliens may use a brain scanner to extract the data from your brain, or whatever else. Everything has a risk benefit analysis, and some of the risks are increasingly unlikely. There are certain things I will NOT ever post on inat, for instance timber rattlesnakes in New England, but in most cases I think obscuring and adding is totally fine. There are a few other tricks to make it all more secure but i won’t post them because they also reveal vulnerabilities. Just use your judgement.

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