Remove "Private" as an Option for Location

Undoubtingly an unpopular request but it’s quite annoying when many observers (mostly one-time users) will submit their sighting and leave it at private, when we can’t identify the species. Here’s an example. I was identifying bluebird eggs/nestlings and several are identified as Eastern Bluebird but since they’re private, I can’t confirm that since eggs and nestlings of the other two species, Western and Mountain, are identical and can only be identified by range. But since they’re one-time users, they’ll probably not get back with my request to make an obscured location. Other examples include a private location “Golden Eagle”. If it’s New World, I can say yes that’s a Golden Eagle but if it’s Asia or Europe, I need to decide which of like a dozen species it could be.

Not only that, I don’t see many problems being made as most users who are avid iNaters already know that the obscured option are efficient in providing a location but keeping the privacy of the exact location.

What is the problem you are thinking of? Is it affecting range maps? Something else? I’m not sure what you mean when you say that you need to decide what it is. When I see observations marked “Private” I just skip them. Is it more of a filtering issue?


Yea, private is really important for certain taxa (say orchids that are habitat specific so a 10 km box still lets you figure it out pretty quickly if there is only one site with that habitat in the box).

It is probably better to just skip the private observations. Or ask for an approximate location and mark reviewed so you don’t see it again if they don’t comment.


I think private should definitely be an option. However, iNat could probably be more clear to new users what the options are and what they mean. New people looking at the map often think that that obscured locations are inaccurate because a flower is in the ocean or whatever, and choosing private is over the top for most observers and observations (and it makes ID issues as you mentioned).


I agree with this. I would never know enough to say the ‘private’ option should be done away with. But it could certainly be made clear that using this option will put the observation off reviewers’ radars, filter it out, rule out RG identification, or something to that effect. Maybe just have the ‘private’ option marked red and the observation subsequently marked ‘!’ or some such.


Working in the conservation field in an area with a lot of endangered and endemic species and in an area with a lot of poaching I very strongly feel that the “private” option should be retained.

I do agree that some clarity about its use could be helpful.


I understand the whole endangered or sensitivity thing. I personally know the locations of three Great Gray Owls, a species that is incredibly sensitive to human interaction. But I also know there’s similar species in plumage across the world, so I use obscured so it gets identified. And the point is placed in a random point in 184 square miles or 119,599 acres. That is an insane amount of space. I’ve actually looked at my local obscured square and I still wouldn’t leave that square in my 16 mile work commute. Not only that, I work on the complete other side of the valley. And I know people sometimes place privacy as a way to protect endangered species from poaching like you said but it’s going to be pretty dang hard to find one animal in all that space and I’m not sure if it would provide poachers with any more information than what they already know.


Most or all Private observations do not show up in a place. That means someone like me who usually use a filter for a country or even continent will never see that observation. That also means that it gets buried and never identified.

I generally just ignore those which are marked private

1 Like

Perhaps the solution is to modify how the “private” setting is manifested and used. It’s important for observations to be verified via community IDs, but it’s also important to ensure adequate protections.

A review and community discussion about how this setting is applied might be in order.

As for sensitive, my primary species is the second most endangered primate species on the planet, with a current population of 68 individuals, and the area I work in has a bunch of other species that are not far off from that.

It makes for an interesting conservation situation, less for the Cat Ba Langur (my flagship species) as that’s decently well known (within certain circles) and protected, but for all the other species in a similar situation that don’t have the international attention, but still need the same levels of protection.


The way I understand “obscured” is it removes it from projects picking it up and from doing searches for locations. However, if I don’t do “obscured”, my literal residential home address will appear for the location. I don’t really want my home address all over the internet either.

My solution was/is to use the GPS coordinates for a city park that is just around the corner from me. I have it as a saved location. This way I don’t need to obscure the location AND I don’t have my home address showing either.

Would be nice if there was a way for locations to still be found for projects and searches but yet maintain privacy for other reasons.

1 Like

I don’t think we’ll get rid of the private option for geoprivacy. Like others here have said, you can skip the observation or you can add a comment asking the observer for some information, like country or county. And it allows people to add observations they might otherwise not feel safe adding, which will at least put them on the radar.

I know some users, especially newer ones, sometimes get confused by the “private” setting, thinking that it refers to private property. Definitely something we can make more clear.

To be clear, this is what obscuring does: One effect of this is that it causes some place-based projects and searches to not pick up obscured observations:

If you do this, please either make sure the accuracy circle of the location covers the actual location of the organism. Or, vote “no” for “Location is accurate” in the Data Quality Assessment.


This has been suggested many times, and it’s a constant source of confusion. It would be really nice if the term “private” could be eventually replaced - others had made excellent suggestions (maybe on the Google group).


I saw a lot of that during last year’s bioblitz. I am pretty sure most of those new users didn’t set out to make their home address public. (Using the location set on their cellphone for the photos?)

My own workaround for obs in my garden was to make a pinned place for my suburb. Accurate enough to keep the data useful, but not intruding on my privacy.

It would be good if iNat would obscure the
57 Main Road part of a private address.


I like the idea of the privacy setting because I live in a closed to the public SNA and I don’t want to put its address on the internet, and because I don’t want the whole internet to know exactly where I’m at when I post. However I do understand and agree with the issue of identifying in certain areas. I think that when selecting “private” a notification should pop up and explain pros and cons of choosing that setting, and it should ask if they want to just put a nearby city or their county instead.


I believe a new “onboarding system” similar to here in the forum is being developed, either currently or on the list for the near future, and this issue has been raised for it often. I would be surprised if it rolled out and this problem was not handled…


I would much like this indeed. However my take on that idea is, is to have a pop-up to request the user to set a standardized setting when they make a private observation. As in, do you want the approx. location of the sighting being county, state/province or country.

1 Like

Since iNat won’t remove the private option for geoprivacy, I’m going to close this topic. Please start a topic in General if you want to discuss ways it could be improved.