Obscuring for island type places


Somewhat amusingly, obscured geoprivacy would fail in rather spectacular fashion for an obs of a terrestrial species on a tiny isolated island! The island would clearly be the only possible location within the obscured range!

Question about un-obscuring taxon geoprivacy

And the same goes for aquatic organisms where a small lake is some distance from the nearest, or for shore species where the depicted obscuration only intersects the coast in a small area… but at the end of the day, any effort is better than no effort!

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Is any effort really better than no effort? Might effort really be best reserved for exceptional cases only? My view is that the obscuring goes way too far.


yes it is. In coding it is referred to as prototyping. Nothing is ever designed and implemented perfectly.


Would it be possible to set different levels of obscurity that the user could choose?
For example 1km, 10km, 100km. Of course, your Easter Island records are going to be a dead giveaway no matter what level you choose.

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For some cases, especially for known populations on islands or other microendemics, the obscuring (or lack thereof) makes little difference. Despite obscuring, it’s pretty obvious where photos of wild Devil’s Hole Pupfish must have been taken. And similarly, if it is well-known that a remote island has endemic taxa, obscuring does little to hide the non-secret fact that the organism is found on the island (although it would obscure exact coordinates and micohabitats). But still, I believe the protection from having default obscuring outweighs the relative frivolousness of obscuring extreme microendemics: especially important if a new population of a rare species is discovered outside of its known range.


The problem is that obscured coordinates are being imposed on just about anything that is given any sort of threat classification, even if that threat classification is country specific (so there is no danger at all of global extinction). As I see it, one of the primary uses of iNat is range mapping, and obscured coordinates ruin that. What I would like to see is a bit more effort put into obscured coordinates only for those relatively few species which really need it.

How often is a new population discovered of a critically endangered species? That would in itself imply that the species is actually less endangered that we thought! At the moment we are obscuring a whole lot of taxa unnecessarily, just to try to protect a handful of species which really need it, and maybe it doesn’t even work then? Those that really need it are ones that are down to one or two remaining populations anyway, and in >99% of cases, the locations of those populations are public knowledge anyway!


I agree. We should not be obscuring edge of range observations (locally rare) of elsewhere - common species with no poaching risk. We shouldn’t be obscuring things like rare sedges with only technical characters distinguishing it from a common one. Etc etc. it’s not good policy to obscure something just because it’s got a conservation status.

That being said some of those that are like that in Canada are hopefully going to be fixed soon so they don’t do this.

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It is particularly problematic for NZ, because, in my view which I cannot prove, a lot of species have been given inflated conservation threat levels over the last few years in order to paint a dire picture of some sort of looming biodiversity apocalypse if billions of dollars in public funding (over the next 3 decades) aren’t diverted to something called “Predator Free NZ”. This money will, among other things, solve our government conservation department’s long time funding problems, but this is more about paying people than it is about saving biodiversity.


Well you have to pay people to do work, aside from recreational Inaturalist use. But this is getting pretty off topic so I’ll leave it at that.

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The relevant point was just that we surely don’t want to have to obscure species locations for thousands of species for the reason that people need paying and profit hungry institutions want “overheads”?


First, from the website itself, “It’s NOT a tool for mapping anything”. Second, the data isn’t obscured for everyone, just for most people in the general public. People are still welcome to post coordinates on their own blogs, or publish range extensions through traditional scientific outlets. Whether or not some species have overblown conservation statuses (in which case the valid gripe would be with the IUCN, NatureServe, etc), iNat has apparently chosen to be more cautious than bold, or to not delve into the controversial subjectivity of evaluating every taxon and jurisdiction on a case by case basis. Is it a bit silly that a well known tree in a city park is obscured? Sure? But that same blanket approach helps keeps a pond of rare turtles in Thailand from being immediately visible to poachers. And iNat will never be everything to everyone: as a social network/citizen science project whose primary goal is to connect people to nature, the data will often be of less quality than a formal study would be, but iNat is not primarily a research tool. And a range map with even fuzzy boundaries still has value.


And that’s where this stops making sense. Totally irrelevant. The first part of that sentence made sense but there’s no continuity with the other part


is also a huge mistake (not by biosam,but by whoever makes these decisions.) one could argue iNat wasn’t created as a tool for mapping anything. Bottom line is though, it’s the most powerful ecological mapping tool in existence for groups that don’t have very much money. Honestly it’s perplexing and frustrating that iNat won’t go further with that instead of the whole ‘it’s connecting with nature’ thing. It’s like saying Ravelry exists ‘to connect with fabric’ or something. it’s a tautology and also a huge understatement and ignores what the community here is about.

Look, i have lots of respect for NatureServe as an organization so this is NOTHING against them. I also think obscuring high poaching risk stuff like ginseng is SUPER important. But honestly this whole idea where only the ‘experts’ (not including community members, indigenous people, landowners etc) should know where a rare plant with no collection risk is… well, it’s a relic of an old style of conservation. and what’s wrong with that? it’s the style of conservation under whoms watch the biodiversity crisis played out.


We play the game this way, we lose. Everything. Literally everything.

We need iNaturalist to step up to what it actually is. A movement. A movement which could actually make some progress where traditional conservation has failed. You don’t save ecosystems by being cautious. You lose them slightly slower that way - maybe - but we all know extinction is forever. You save ecosystems by building a movement of people to stand up and save them. You save ecosystems by bringing LOCAL communities in to be involved. You save ecosystems and cultures by letting them interface with each other. And you absolutely do not save ecosystems by calling the people who manage them on the ground ‘the general public’ and telling them they don’t deserve to know where a white oak is, because it happens to be on some list because it’s on the wrong side of some arbitrary line some colonial fur trapper drew on a map 400 years ago.

For what you’re doing. Not for what i’m doing. Not for what our conservation commission is doing. Not for the mapping I do. Not for all the people who have poured their life and love into building it. Don’t destroy what we’ve created, what we are using to fight this crisis, out of fear. You will look back when all the bees are gone and think ‘well we sure saved that rusty patched bumblebee by hiding it from that town’s conservation commission, right? Oh wait, they are all dead, and so are we’

Just no. I think Stephen’s posts are way off here but I think what Biosam is saying is actually more dangerous to biodiversity. Please stop this.

The community chooses what the community’s goal is. We are all already connected with nature and most of us here actually want to do more than ‘connect’ with something while we watch it die horribly. We want to save what we can and bear witness to when we can’t. If you take this amazing tool away we will build another one but it will do so much more good if you let it be what it can be.

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Well, as much as I admire a good go at an “everybody is wrong but me” approach :), my point, correctly construed, is perfectly sensible, i.e. conservation status is partly a result of political/economic factors, so those well-intentioned people who want to save the world from poaching or whatever may in fact also be playing into the hands of a greedy corporate machine to some extent. But that is just one factor to be considered. I agree with @charlie in as much as there should be more effort put into conservation strategies, whether on iNat or elsewhere, that actually work. It is lazy just to adopt the easiest strategy and claim that although it has major disadvantages to some of us, it does protect the taxa needing protection and does illustrate that we take such matters seriously.


i don’t disagree with that at all. It’s just that the way you phrased it is both really confusing and also kind of hostile.

The bottom line is ‘hide the data from all but the conservation groups, the big groups know best’ hasn’t worked. So i think we should only hide data when there’s a credible reason to do so. Sure, throw that filter broadly, if there might be a risk, obscure it. But lots of stuff you can’t even possibly conceive of a poaching risk.

And we also don’t actually know if even sharing locations of poached stuff increases poaching. We know that some poachers may have used citizen science sites to find things to poach, but we don’t have the other side of the scale which is that when more community members know about a resource, care about it, and advocate for it, it’s a lot harder for poachers to operate. There’s a balance there and sometimes people choose fear and conservatism over objectiveness.

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No hostility is intended to anyone here on iNat, though I am very angry with the way that conservation is being manipulated, as a funding opportunity, here in NZ, so perhaps that is showing through?

I think at the very least it should be up to the uploader if they want to obscure anything or not (as it is for privacy issues). One reason is that it covertly already is up to the uploader, so why not make it overt? If I want to share the exact location of a threatened species, I just give a verbal description of the location in one or more of several ways on an observation page whaich are not subject to obscuration (obscurity?)


in case anyone worries otherwise, i am 100% in support of people being able to obscure their own observations. Otherwise they just wouldn’t post it, so it doesn’t hurt anything,and can help a lot in getting private landowners involved, etc.

In any event, a lot of the obscuring stuff is coming to a head, or in the least is changing a lot, and without community involvement. I realize iNat is ‘not a democracy’, etc, but we are a community, and i really think a more open and frank and evidence based discussion needs to happen with the community. I worry control will be handed over to external groups for obscuring, and it will be another blow to local grassroots conservation by non privileged groups.

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Yes, this is certainly a very real concern on several fronts. I don’t know the situation at iNat.org, but certainly iNat.nz gets some funding from both DoC (our govt. conservation authority) and MPI (our govt. biosecurity authority). Unfortunately, this seems to buy them a certain amount of “control” over iNat. Recently I uploaded a new exotic incursion and was put under significant pressure (which I resisted) by MPI (and by iNat.nz) to take it down again until such time that they decided was the right time to go public with the incursion. My observation was my own intellectual property: I found the specimens in the field, I photographed them, and I suggested an ID (which they don’t dispute) based on freely available web resources. It was slightly more complicated by the fact that I did have some prior interaction with MPI regarding the incursion, which they already knew about, but for present purposes my point is just how iNat can be strongly influenced (controlled?) by the interests of external groups.


Did they try to force you to take it down, or was it just a request for you to do so? There is a big difference, and I guess the wording of such a request might be considered threatening. What was their reasoning for the delay of the “announcement”?


There is a fine line between force and request! Let’s just say that it was a strong request. The reason was unclear. It didn’t make much sense.

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