Starting on April 5, iNaturalist will update taxon geoprivacy for many species within Canada which will greatly reduce the number of species that are automatically obscured. The changes may take a week or more to fully implement. This update will apply taxon geoprivacy more consistently across provinces and territories and is intended to allow increased access to true locations of species while safeguarding those that are Subject To Persecution or Harm (STPH).
Two years ago iNaturalist Canada attempted to standardize the way in which taxon geoprivacy was applied. At the time, the intention was to mirror the approach of the Conservation Data Centers (CDC) as the recognized authorities in Canada and avoid curators making one-off changes to taxon geoprivacy which may have unforeseen negative effects on a species. As some curators and people active on this Forum correctly pointed out, there were concerns that this wasn’t being applied consistently across provinces and territories. Each provincial/territorial authority had different official stances for which species to obscure within their own systems, some maintaining all S1-S3 species while others having a much smaller list, and Quebec, not being a member of NatureServe Canada, wasn’t involved in the process at all. iNaturalist Canada has appreciated the insight and constructive criticism and made great efforts to bring in some consistency. There are some minor differences among provinces/territories in the upcoming changes that reflect different circumstances, for example when harvest or disturbance is a threat in one area but not another.
As opposed to mirroring the CDC’s approach, iNaturalist Canada has now incorporated their expert opinion (including Quebec thanks to a new partnership), as well as undertaken a review for all species assessed as Threatened or Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Any species whose reason for designation (i.e. why it is at risk) includes some form of persecution or harm (ex. poaching, harvest, collection, persecution) is also included on the STPH list. The list consists of 125 species.
Changes to taxon geoprivacy applied to Canada or provinces/territories do not override the global taxon geoprivacy (generally based on the IUCN criteria of “Near Threatened” or worse). This also does not override observation geoprivacy that has been manually set by the observer.
The iNaturalist Canada steering committee has pursued this second extensive update because Canada has recognized authorities on sensitive species (the CDCs) and an extremely rigorous process to assess the status of species at risk which takes persecution and harm into account when assessing threats. iNaturalist Canada therefore is encouraging that curators not make changes to taxon geoprivacy in Canada unless first consulting with and getting approval from the iNaturalist.ca steering committee using the process that will be outlined in the curator guide. If there are instances where a global taxon geoprivacy setting should be revisited because it is obscuring Canadian observations, please use the normal process of starting a flag for discussion of the proposed change.
Since many members of the forum contributed to past discussions on Canadian taxon geoprivacy, we are providing this advance notice on the forum to be upfront and forthcoming with the planned changes. On March 22, an announcement will also be made on iNaturalist.ca with updated content in the help section (curator guide and getting started). iNaturalist users with observations in Canada are encouraged to review the list and make any geoprivacy changes to their own observations before April 5 should they not want the precise locations of their observations made public.
The STPH list is available as a pdf and a link to the pdf will also be available from the help section of iNaturalist.ca.