well, this is a balance. it depends on the relative threat to the species, the size of the area being obscured, and a bunch of other stuff. i think some people tend to forget that iNat isn’t just being used recreationally, a lot of small or resource-poor community conservation groups use it too. In some cases (rhinos) the threat of poaching is high enough that hiding the data from even these groups is necessary. In other cases (edge of range red spruce) it’s not. And there are TONS of grey areas in between so it isn’t easy at all.
For a long time the iNat stance was ‘use common sense and judgement and just don’t put something in if it is high risk. This will never be secret’. There will always be some loopholes to obscuring, if nothing else outright hacking as it has happened to bank sites and other places that have MUCH more stringent security than iNat would ever have.
One of the things that seems to be going on is a lot of concern without a lot of data to back it up. Most ‘traditional’ conservation groups seem very loathe to share data. There may be good reasons for this, but in some cases maybe that isn’t the case. There is always very high concern about poaching coming from iNat and other sites, but what isn’t really clear is when this poaching/collecting actually happens and if so what are the circumstances? And does the availability of data make it more likely? Poaching and overcollection have been rife for a century, is iNat making poaching worse or is it just letting us SEE poaching more? Might full community awareness of location and status of some species DECREASE poaching? Are there chances of using iNat in some sort of honey pot setup to actually catch poachers? Are different taxa at different levels of risk? (for instance herp poaching is apparently rife but most rare plants with some notable exceptions (orchids, ginseng) gather little if any attention, while some relatively common plants that aren’t obscured may face risk by overzealous collectors (fiddleheads etc).
In short, caution is warranted but actions that cripple small conservation groups without a clear need are not. I am not trying to say this is an easy balance, but what i have seen so far in my opinion, is an increase in things obscured, but not necessarily in a way that is protecting the most at-risk species, and potentially in a way that makes certain groups less able to use iNat. I also see more collaboration with larger, more traditional conservation groups. Initially i thought this might be a good thing, but… if we surrender our decision making to them in terms of what we obscure, i am not so sure. Remember - while traditional conservation organizations certainly do more good than if they didn’t exist, they are also losing the ‘war’. Habitat loss, extinction, climate change, wetland filling, etc etc etc continue around the world, at a far greater rate than things are being restored (and restoration often doesn’t work). If we don’t try a different form of conservaiton, we will just continue to lose until most ecosystems and species are gone or seriously impacted.
From my experience iNat is being used as a powerful tool. Powerful tools can be dangerous. Safety measures need to be taken. But if you break or throw the tool away because you are afraid of it, you lose out on a lot.We can throw this tool away but everyone saw how we made it and someone will just build another one. Or we can be a part of the new conservation movement that maybe this time will allow communities to actually understand and protect what they love.
As an aside i am fine with moving this topic elsewhere if others want to since it has drifted off topic and isn’t a bug report.