Obscuring observations now obscures the date of comments and IDs

No, sorry, I asked the observer to add a location, and as luck would have it, s/he immediately fixed that. Curiously though, the location is now obscured: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/88069758

The comments change and little eye thing I’ve been seeing for a while (though I also just realized I may have opted into the curators test and been seeing it before the main rollout).

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in this case, the user has chosen to obscure the coordinates

I was confused when this obscured observations appeared in Identify

I would guess that if you join a Bioblitz project and check the Do you want to make your private/obscured observation coordinates visible to the project curators? shouldn’t be any problem.

If the observations can’t get into the project in the first place because of the date restriction, then the project admins couldn’t see (I think)? Checking that doesn’t make project admins able to see data for all your obscured observations (only the ones that make it into project).

On the other hand, for most bioblitzes, submitting an observation to the project inherently defines the area and time period for the observation. Anyone seeing it and that it is part of the bioblitz has a good idea when/where it was found (varying of course by how restricted the bioblitz area and duration themselves were).

I’m not sure I can say much more than @thebeachcomber has already. These changes were implemented as a way to make intepolation more difficult, which I think they do.

This shouldn’t be the case.

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On obscured observations, the number of observations a user has doesn’t show below their name anymore.
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Is this intentional or just a bug?

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Is there actually evidence that interpolation is that much of a problem? And that current means are not already sufficient? Most people who post critical stuff, like reptiles, or orchids, already protect them by not posting other observations, changing the date, or shuffling the locations. These changes are an impediment because they completely dismantle the value of observing species that have little to no poaching risk at all.

People are too concerned about “leaking” locations. For poaching targets, I get it. But for any species with a “status” beyond common? It’s turning the website into a place that can only purpose the science of the most common species, trivializing anything rarer. It impedes a lot of benefit that iNaturalist could have. Researchers already give up on iNat because half of the species on their project are obscured and locations are not visible. And what’s wrong with letting users know which uncommon species can be found local to them, and encouraging that curiosity? If iNat really wants to contribute to science and meet the goals it intends to, there are always going to be risks that something slips. That’s just the reality of it. A lot of the obscured species on iNat can be searched on google and the locations are visible publicly. That doesn’t mean iNat can’t do better, but this is starting to press too far into overprotective territory for my liking.

And yes, full disclosure, I’ve used iNat observations to find species many times. So I’m more than familiar with how the workarounds function, and the specific levels of when an observation can be traced. I understand the fears, and I’ve reached out to observers before to ensure they understand as well. But this is reaching a ridiculous level that’s starting to become impractical. I defend this topic strongly because I see the benefit that iNaturalist has, as a community, as a learning platform, and as a scientific database. And anything that impedes that is discouraging to me, and discouraging to others as well.

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I was thinking about the use cases. I agree the change adds an extra layer of difficulty, but only a trival amount of extra work will find the same information as before. I disagree that the current change will do much to slow anyone down who wants to find a mystery plant.

I still have the opinion that if the observation is presented in a list but sorted using the actual Observed or Added timestamp then it is still easy to find.

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I think you’re forgetting that there is another common circumstance – obscuration for privacy and personal safety. In that case, making interpolation more difficult does work well. It is, in a way, similar to the much-requested Option to hide time (show just the date).

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I think it is specifically reptiles and rare plants that are the issue, with people outside of iNat regularly complaining about poachers using iNat to get locations for those. The ability to see and click on the date to see other observations from the same hike was the most obvious method, and this change definitely makes it a bit more annoying to try to do that.

Please don’t discuss detailed strategies here. If you can edit your post, that would be great

As noted before, these changes are designed to make it more difficult and the opportunity cost higher. No one here as said they’re foolproof.

It’s difficult to say, but as you and others acknowledge, it’s certainly happening so I think it’s safe to assume that it is creating at least some problems.

Agreed, but this is designed to make it more difficult to find locations on iNat - we don’t thave control over other platforms. I think of it like a Club on a car, or as Ken-ichi has said a lock on a door. It doesn’t make things impossible, but it makes it more difficult and less likely for someone to use iNat for nefarioius purposes.

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If these changes can only apply to the specific species that are problematic, this would be a welcome compromise. Sweeping “all uncommon status” species feels like it includes too many species.

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I know there’s plenty of discussion on the forum about what the standard for auto-obscuring locations should be, but I think there’s consensus that it should mainly be species that are genuinely threatened by disturbance/poaching rather than just anything uncommon or even “at risk”.

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It’s difficult to say, but as you and others acknowledge, it’s certainly happening so I think it’s safe to assume that it is creating at least some problems.

I understand the team wants to err on the side of caution, and that even if information is normalized, iNat being an outlet for that same abuse of information is not ideal. Having said that, I still find there is a bit too much overprotection, especially when it blocks researchers who genuinely want to take advantage of the iNat dataset for valid reasons. However, I think the consideration should be not what iNat can do, but what iNat does in a unique and advantageous way.

To be more specific, we need to come to terms with what exactly could be sensitive:

Birds: iNat is not a good resource for this purpose, with several databases providing far more abundant and useful information (e.g. eBird). As such, anyone hoping to target birds for poaching or disturbance are unlikely to bother.

Reptiles: the highest and most likely target of poaching via the iNat dataset, in my opinion. Not much needs to be said here. There are no open access reptile databases that are convenient to use, and therefore iNat offers a potential advantage in tracking these species.

Plants: rare orchids and flashy ornamental plants, with rare cases like Dudleya, certainly may be susceptible to iNat dataset. However, many of the species in question are extremely infrequently posted, and the data is far more easily available elsewhere (e.g. in herbarium databases).

Mammals: I can’t see anyone using iNat to find mammals, for a multitude of reasons.

Insects: Though I can see people using iNat to locate rare insects, such species are incredibly rarely posted on the site and that information is far more widely available elsewhere.

So in my eyes: it’s really reptiles we want to worry about most. Obviously this is a great oversimplification, but at the same time, I think it’s worth considering that not all taxonomic groups are equal in terms of their risk via the iNat dataset.

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This is a legitimate concern, with discussion ongoing in many other threads. But for this thread, please remember that discussion here should be

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In my opinion I really think this is a bad choice. For one obscuring the time a species was seen heavily limits the usefulness of its data for those who wish to use inat paper for research. Which intrinsically defeats the point of inaturalist as a citizen science database. Especially given that this rollout affects all ‘at risk’ species on inat. At least 95% of these species are not at threat from poaching. Most are under threat due to habitat loss, climate change, out competition, and other similar causalities. Overall I think this is a step back as a whole, and I do believe it should be largely undone.

That said I think there is a safe way to have the feature without negatively affecting the majority of inat data as a whole. Instead of having this automatically applied to all threatened species. I believe this would serve better as a feature which can be requested on specific individual taxons. A great example would be for particularly poached plants like some cacti (i.e. Peyote) and dudleyas where there is legitimate concern for poaching. Allowing it to be requested on these species would allow for the individual debate for each species which people wish or would not like it to apply to. Which would allow for much better safety of the species that actually need it.

As it stands I think the feature is currently a bad choice made from well intentions and I sincerely hope to see this change in the future.

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ah just saw this after finishing my spiel. However that said there is currently no thread concerning the problems of this particular feature.

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For those opposed to the feature, would there be support for linking it to only observations that are private rather than both obscured and private? I know in Ontario several of the most sensitive reptile species and one or two plants have automatically private locations, I don’t know to what extent the feature is used elsewhere.

Personally I think the argument is that fewer species should be obscured (date or location), which is covered in other threads, rather than that species should not be obscured for both date and location. If a species is sensitive enough that the location needs to be obscured, surely it would also benefit from having the date obscured?

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Another thought to tac on to this would be to obscure time on all threatened species only to those without accounts. This way random poachers couldn’t just show up, grab what they want and go. This plus my aforementioned requesting date obscuration on specific taxa seems like the ideal way to go about this.

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