Questions around deleted accounts

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David K

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Aug 1, 2016, 6:52:06 AM8/1/16
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It looks like a former member of a project that I admin recently deleted their account.  I have learned the hard way that their observations and IDs also get deleted at the same time. This generated a few questions:

- Why are a user's IDs deleted?  this has the effect of reverting Research Grade observations to Casual when the deleted user is the only one providing an identification. Its one thing to make it easy for people to change their mind about sharing their own observation data, but once they have contributed to a conversation about an ID, erasing that contribution later seems arbitrary and unfair to other iNat users that are relying on the deleted individual's assistance/knowledge. 
- What happens to the GBIF/GloBi entries that relate to the deleted user's observations?
- What happens to the GBIF/GloBi entries of other users' observations that have reverted back to Casual status now that the confirming ID has been wiped?

Thanks,
David

Scott Loarie

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Aug 1, 2016, 1:25:21 PM8/1/16
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Hi David,

Thats too bad. There's a balance here between the user's 'right to be forgotten' and the communities right to not have data they've worked on collaboratively go away.
Maybe some way of not-deleting but rather anonymizing the data of someone who deleted their account would be a better solution. Curious to hear what people think.

But at the moment, if you delete your account all records associated with your account are deleted, this includes IDs which (as you say) impact the community ID of other people's observations. As for 'why' I guess the only answer is that the current system requires that IDs are associated with users so an ID without a user doesn't make sense

I'm not sure what happens to GBIF/GLoBi entries. It depends on their respective protocols for updating data. Are there any GBIF or GloBi folks here who can explain what happens?


> - Why are a user's IDs deleted?  this has the effect of reverting Research
> Grade observations to Casual when the deleted user is the only one providing
> an identification. Its one thing to make it easy for people to change their
> mind about sharing their own observation data, but once they have
> contributed to a conversation about an ID, erasing that contribution later
> seems arbitrary and unfair to other iNat users that are relying on the
> deleted individual's assistance/knowledge.
> - What happens to the GBIF/GloBi entries that relate to the deleted user's
> observations?
> - What happens to the GBIF/GloBi entries of other users' observations that
> have reverted back to Casual status now that the confirming ID has been
> wiped?
>
> Thanks,
> David
>
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Aug 2, 2016, 6:09:32 PM8/2/16
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I totally agree there needs to be some means of the community IP not being lost when someone decides for whatever reason to delete their account (and all the observations and IDs and comments along with it). This has happened to us at NatureWatch NZ both on purpose and by mistake. I appreciate it is a delicate ethical issue around the absolute ownership of records by the recorder, but of course once someone has published something it is out in the public domain. I'd urge some quick solution to this because it will also be an impediment to the community if they can't be guaranteed that all their hours of work on someone's records could suddenly vanish. your interim suggestion of anonymising records could work (and even obscuring locations altho I wouldn't personally want to see that). c 

Alex Shepard

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Aug 2, 2016, 6:44:58 PM8/2/16
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> of course once someone has published something it is out in the public domain.

In the United States, placing a work in the public domain is a very specific legal abdication of copyright. Many (most?) users of iNat choose to retain some form of copyright over the photos and observations that they upload.

David K

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Aug 3, 2016, 7:01:03 AM8/3/16
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Hi Scott - I am a big advocate of personal privacy, but I’m not sure that the spirit of the ‘right to be forgotten’ is the right one here.  The origins of that argument are for people to be able to suppress information about them that is created or indexed by others.   That is a far distance from someone deliberately participating in an online nature discussion and then changing their mind about their involvement.  Joining iNat, adding observations and contributing in any way to another user’s observation are all active choices made by the individual.  And every step is done on the internet.  Where is the expectation of privacy in that process? Letting them bail out and remove their IDs and comments (and frankly, their observations) just goes against the concept of open, communal citizen science.

 

I saw a github discussion where this issue was raised in the context of a minor who was disclosing too much information, and it makes sense to erase a user in that circumstance.  But the example of an adult that provides IDs hundreds (or thousands) of observations and then changes their mind about their continued involvement is completely different.   By that point other people, and likely institutions, have used or gathered some of the data that the individual touched.  Let’s face it, because of iNat’s open structure, the data may already be in some other database (in addition to GBIF and GloBi) and there is little likelihood that it will disappear from those secondary databases as they obtained it when it was publicly available.

 

Think about it another way, what if Greg Lasley, Mark Rosenstein or any other major contributor deleted their accounts – even by accident?  How many observations would flip back to Casual?  How many observations would just evaporate?    

I'm not sure which direction Alex is going with the reference to copyright as I'm not familiar with US law.  But I am focused on the observation details and comments, not the media (as I believe that copyright applies to the media, not to the other information.)


Charlie Hohn

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Aug 3, 2016, 8:50:07 AM8/3/16
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I think I agree with David, at least to a point. I think there's a clear case that photos should be deleted if the user didn't release them into public domain. However, removing whole observations and especially IDs seems a bit excessive. I could see anonymizing them as something like "a deleted user observed..." and if the situation is something involving harassment, perhaps an automatic obscuring of all that user's observations. 

Though there are exceptions of course, as always

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Charlie Hohn
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Alex Shepard

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Aug 3, 2016, 11:58:41 AM8/3/16
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> I'm not sure which direction Alex is going with the reference to copyright as I'm not familiar with US law. But I am focused on the observation details and comments, not the media (as I believe that copyright applies to the media, not to the other information.)

If you go to edit your profile/account on inaturalist.org and scroll down, you will see that we ask you to provide a default license for observations themselves, as well as default licenses for media. The site also allows users to change the license of their individual observations as well as the license of individual observation photo.

As to what direction I'm going, I would simply argue that peer-production projects that do not respect the license and copyrights of user created content struggle to thrive.

Imagine if upon deletion of your Facebook account, you found out that Facebook would keep all of your comments, updates and photos online because others might have commented on them, or because you were a top tier user and the site would be irredeemably lessened by your absence.

Charlie Hohn

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Aug 3, 2016, 12:49:26 PM8/3/16
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That seems really different to me. iNaturalist is not Facebook, it is somewhere between Facebook and a scientific paper. Also as you all often remind us, iNat isn't for private observations - we can obscure locations but unlike facebook there is no way to add completely private observations, IDs, or comments to inat.  I think protecting license and copyright are really important but it's hard for me to see that extending to things like ID help. I'm sure one could think of exceptions, such as weird stalker issues, and those are really important. But beyond that I think it's hopefully going to be a very rare issue.

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Colin Meurk

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Aug 3, 2016, 4:44:15 PM8/3/16
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Yes agree with Charlie.  It is quite a different issue to facebook which, as far as wider public is concerned, is not archiving valuable even critical scientific data with often painstaking professional content. Of course fb collects data for its own commercial purposes.  But on a personal note, I’d be hugely annoyed if hundreds of hours of my time, in assisting not only observers but the wider community to learn about nature, suddenly disappeared in a puff of smoke.  It would also radically undermine community, scientific and institutional confidence in supporting iNat.  As I’ve noted before, at least here in NZ, unless we can get support from local and central govt agencies (including education from high school to universities) we will struggle to survive.  It is hard enough as it is to get conventional/employed natural scientists to contribute the vast proportion of identifications needed to maintain iNat and NatuereWatchNZ.  Why would any of them contribute at all if they thought their efforts would be ephemeral. This needs to be dealt with quickly and smoothly and the IP of the wider contributing community protected. As far as I’m aware, pretty much all the documentation of a record is essentially public domain.  Can I suggest that if someone who might consider removing their support for iNat pulls out, and their images are copyrighted at high level (this is a small minority right?), then as a compromise maybe their images could be made visible only at low resolution.

 

Colin meurk | Research associate
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Scott Loarie

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Aug 3, 2016, 6:03:30 PM8/3/16
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Hi all,

Personally, I agree that iNat is a bit different than Facebook, and participants might expect less ability to withdraw their contributed content if they choose to delete their account. But I also agree with Alex, that there are copyright issues and big-brother perceptions associated with not letting people delete their stuff that might create a backlash/more problems than they solve.

I totally agree that there are members of the community (e.g. greglasley, finatic) that if god-forbid decided to delete their account would cause tremendous harm (not just for the loss of their past content but also for all the vibrancy they bring to the site each day). But surely members of the community who are that invested in iNat would be aware of this devastation that their leaving the site would cause. And with that in mind, if they still really did want to delete their accounts, couldn't you argue that its their right to do so (not discounting the huge bummer the loss of a power-user would represent)? 

I guess I'm not opposed to building something to (a) make it clearer to users who are deleting their accounts what that means in terms of deleted content and (b) having the default option on user_deletion be to leave behind anonymized comments, ids, and obs. But it seems like one could argue (a) if they really want to delete all their content, their should be an option to do so, and (b) trying to say that they are forfeiting their photo copyright and can't delete them seems like a hard sell/can of worms - backlash waiting to happen. Just my opinion.

But regardless of what we should, seems like it might be worth looking into some empirical data on how many accounts have actually been deleted to see how big of a problem this has been historically. We've been keeping track since Jan 2011 of what to my knowledge are all account-deletion-events. There are 1,840 deleted accounts out of 279,507 active accounts (0.66%). Here's a histogram by the deleted account's number of observations at the time of deletion:


Inline image 1
There are 11 deleted accounts that had >200 observations. I researched each, and 1 is legit and 1 is possibly legit (together representing 3,029 observations). Of the remaining 9, the largest was a CSV bulk upload misfire from a bioblitz. And the remaining 8 belong to people still active in the community (ie apparently resulted from merged accounts and shouldn't be counted). 

Of the remaining 1,829 accounts, 1273 have 0 observations and 231 have just one observation. Together, these remaining 1,829 deleted accounts have resulted in 7,206 deleted observations, and like the 11 I investigated, I suspect many (most?) are not legit.

My take aways from this analysis is that so far deleted accounts haven't been a problem. While I'm not opposed to building more complexity so that there's an option for some content to persist anonymized, its difficult to argue that its a priority based on the above analysis. And I still kind of feel like if a power user (e.g. someone who's leaving will really adversely effect the community) really wants to leave, they know the harm their causing. And if they really want to delete all their stuff, as a community can't we trust that they have good reason to do so?

-Scott


David K

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Aug 3, 2016, 7:30:40 PM8/3/16
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I think that we should separate two points in this discussion.  I believe that everyone is on the same page about copyright, and copyright has nothing to do with my concern re the lack of stability of scientific observations.  I have a similar understanding to Colin re the details of an observation, i.e. that none of that is captured by copyright (as there is nothing created but the user, they are reporting facts), but any supporting media is covered by copyright - and iNat has explicit controls available for users on that topic.

Scott - I am curious about why you think there would be a backlash if people were not allowed to delete their stuff.  If this material was written on paper and published in that form, it could not be erased, so why do observations in electronic form get to be erased?  The points about FB being a commercial enterprise and iNat having a broader scientific goal are important here.  People should be able to delete unfortunate selfies from all-night parties, but what does that have to do with undoing the verification of a northern cardinal observation?

As you continue this discussion, I think that it would be helpful to consider two classes of user material: (1) the user's own observations and media, and (2) the user's contributions to other observations, whether by way of comments or IDs.

I can see both points of view on (1), some people may want to delete their records, but I'm back to the 'once you've published it, its out there' view.  As Colin points out, disappearing records undermine the credibility of the system from a scientific perspective (even citizen science).  

Let's compare this to a real world situation.  I recently participated in a NABA butterfly count, and my name is now part of the official record for that count.  Someone wrote it down, another individual took a picture of me in the field.  I can't undo that.  And why should I?  I intentionally engaged in the activity.  Why would there be a different rule for similar electronic efforts?

On (2), once a user has engaged with other users, that is a historical conversation and I see no reason to permit mass deletion.  To reiterate my point in the first post, I think that allowing someone to remove their comments and IDs is completely unfair to all the people that benefitted from the deleted user's input.  Agreed that the power users are the single biggest risk, but any loss of any verification, especially for niche species that only have one confirming ID, is detrimental for the ongoing user who is now stuck with a Casual observation.  And if that observation is 2 or 3 years old, what are the odds that someone will go back and re-confirm it? 

And, we still have the unanswered questions on GBIF and GoBi.

Many people do not even use their real identities here, so they presumably aren't concerned about leaving records behind.  Anyone who is concerned could just be given the option to be identified as 'anonymous user' - doesn't ebird do something similar, albeit for ongoing users who don't want to disclose their names?


Charlie Hohn

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Aug 3, 2016, 8:21:44 PM8/3/16
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hmm... this is a complicated issue. Does copyright imply the right to deletion or does it just deny the right to share without proper attribution? i had assumed it's just the former... if i write a book and copyright it, I can ban others from duplicating it from selling or giving it away. It doesn't mean if I get sick of the book I can 'delete' it and have it ripped out of peoples' bookshelves. That being said I think there is a good argument that people should be able to delete their photos from the site and delete their name from the observation... and maybe also delete their comments... but not sure about that. Not all websites allow that. Unless there is some extreme circumstance (which I can't picture) I don't think people should be able to delete IDs (though maybe they should become anonymous, ie: "Deleted User added ID: Acer saccharum". That seems like a good balance to me... though i'm sure others may have different ideas.

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AfriBats

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Aug 4, 2016, 4:16:49 PM8/4/16
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Hi everyone

Tricky issue indeed! I'd largely go with Scott as far as the observations are concerned: if a user decides to delete his/her account, he/she should have the possibility to remove all observations shared with iNat. Maybe iNat could add an option for the user about to delete the account to donate all observation data to the public domain with an anonymized account (e.g. transforming user "jakob" into "user_anoX", where X stand for a consecutive number), and removing all information from the user profile.

I would also vote that all IDs and comments provided by a user to observations other than his/her own should be preserved by iNat. If a user decides to delete all observations in the case above, than iNat could anonymize that user, again with some sort of numbered substitute.

Cheers, Jakob

Arborsphere

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Aug 5, 2016, 8:35:01 PM8/5/16
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I share David K's concern and frustration at the loss of the particular user who precipitated this thread. I'd like to add my votes for the following:

1) I reluctantly agree that a user should be able to delete their observations. But not globally all at once. In other words, they can do it one at a time, just like how they created them. That way, the means to do so is there, but the scope of the user's value is a built-in consideration and the disincentive to delete oneself increases with the number of observations the user has contributed.
2) deleting oneself should not include contributions (i.e., IDs or comments) to someone else's records.
3) retained elements of a user should not revert to some anonymous pseudonym. The site already allows nicknames, which a number of hardcore biologists already find problematic based on requests I have had for my "real name" from the scientific community.

Other thoughts:
1) The expediency of the internet and the ephemeral nature of digital things is somewhat responsible for making this discussion even possible. Before the internet, we used sightings cards and labelled specimens to build databases of species records in museums, national parks, etc.... If iNaturalist worked like that, we probably wouldn't be having this conversation.
2) The fallout of this particular user's self-deletion has been profound for iNaturalist.ca. The Canadian site has not been around for very long, and, I suspect, has proportionally less users and less records than the original "main site". For example, when this user deleted themselves, about 10% of Ontario's records disappeared. For both total species and total records, this user had been #2 on the provincial leaderboard. I can only guess how many other peoples' records have reverted to "Needs ID". As for myself ...
3) Dozens of my own records have now reverted to "Needs ID". This is discouraging to say the least. Similarly, comment exchanges with that user now only have my comments showing, making me look a bit like an idiot talking to myself.

Just my 2-cents worth. Thanks for reading.

Chris Thawley

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Jan 18, 2019, 11:36:29 AM1/18/19
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Just a quick thought on this old topic (since I found it yesterday while looking for potential solutions to an account vandalized by deletion).

A few folks brought up the fact that users may retain copyright over their postings and thus are free to remove them. While this may be the case in some scenarios, it seems like iNat defaults to the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial license. According to my understanding, these licenses, in effect, cannot be revoked, so that any use that began while the license was in effect, is protected and allowed to continue (for an overview, see here: https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2014/12/09/revoking-creative-commons-licenses/) NB: I am decidedly not a lawyer, so I only know what I read.

But assuming this is true, since the licenses are created when observations are uploaded to iNat, it should not be an issue for iNat to maintain observations (and comments, ids, etc.) even after a user deletes their account. Of course, some users do retain full copyright on some or all of their observations, so this would be a different scenario. But as I have to imagine that a really high proportion of users stick with the defaults, this could allow iNat to retain most data from deleted accounts and preserve community effort.

Charlie Hohn

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Jan 18, 2019, 12:16:53 PM1/18/19
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My understanding is you can copyright a photo but you can't copyright information. I can't tell you "i saw a wood turtle under the Main Street Bridge on the Winooski River, Copyright 2019 Charlie Hohn" and demand you keep it secret. Nor can you say 'Hey Charlie that's a wood turtle! Copyright 2019 Christ Thawley" and compel me to forget what it was if you don't like me any more. So it's hard to see any legal grounds behind having to delete comments or IDs. I think it's more of a 'data sovereignty' issue, and a hard one at that.

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jdmore

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Jan 20, 2019, 2:19:04 AM1/20/19
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Scott, do you have similar statistics for how many IDs the deleted accounts took with them?  Based on the few I know about, it could be argued that is where even more value was lost from iNat with those accounts.

In principle I would be in favor of making it policy to anonymize and preserve "non-copyrightable" information contributed by a user if they delete their account.  Information like IDs and comments on observations of others.  Pretty sure this is already done for curatorial records created by deleted users, like taxon swaps, new taxa, etc.  (but correct me if mistaken...)

In practice, the scary part would be announcing the change in terms of service to the usership, with the inevitable misinterpretations, overreactions, etc. potentially leading to more people considering deleting their accounts than would otherwise be the case.  Somewhat akin to what is going on with Flickr right now, in terms of a "bait-and-switch" interpretation by some (though not monetarily in iNat's case).  (And please, no one go off on the Flickr situation in this thread!  ;-)

So yeah, adding some more mixed feelings here, and as long as the problem remains relatively small in scope, maybe we should keep hands off.  As the site gets older and larger, though, so may the number and frequency of deletions, for reasons various and sundry.

--Jim Morefield (jdmore)

Mark Tutty

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Jan 20, 2019, 3:22:23 AM1/20/19
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I had a secondary acct of over 900 records (from memory) that I deleted recently. They were casual grade (no photos), and it was deleted because I mistakenly perceived it to be causing a problem for another member. It was a trial implementation for a particular project, and I was not overly happy with the datasource used, so I knew I was going to be replacing or deleting it at some stage anyway. The alarming ease with which the account was able to be deleted is largely what got me enquiring about the possibility of splitting out important data before a delete, and also about the possibility of placing controls or checks and balances on the delete process, such as a delay or a “counselled exit”.

 

I have witnessed the delete of an account that was probably around 200 to 300 observations, and they were terrific observations! Professional quality photos, perhaps not showing a good range of views per observation, but most certainly of taxa that are not encountered very often and a good number of them of undescribed species. It was a stoush over copyright issues, and I understand both sides views. While he had identified a few observations for other people, largely we were not affected in that respect. I had enjoyed seeing his observations every day, and looked forward to them, and so I felt a sense of loss at losing that member. Looking back, the mourning did not last for long and the long term impact of his deletion has been minimal. If he had never joined iNaturalist then we would never have had those observations anyway.

 

I think the greatest “real” losses are in the effort spent in identifying those observations, and losing the conversations that have occurred on them. I would not call myself any sort of expert, but I certainly would have put in close to 30 hours on identifying (or trying to) for those observations. But I have learnt from having spent that time, and he did not delete what I learnt. I gave that time freely and with no expectation of anything in return, apart from perhaps a desire to repay (paying forward?) the effort given to me by others. The discussions, for me, are a very real and impactful loss.

 

Where they are deleting accounts with identifications that THEY have made, then it’s less of a concern, because usually they have been confirmed by others. We can mitigate this loss by learning to recognise the reliable identifiers, and then “adding weight”, where appropriate, to their Ids.

 

I strongly believe in the right to delete ones content, but I am just alarmed at the ease with which it can be done, and there being no rollback.

 

cheers
Mark Tutty
kiwif...@gmail.com


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studebakersamuel

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Jan 20, 2019, 1:47:21 PM1/20/19
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I have been following the discussion with interest as a related issue that I hope belongs in this thread is..,what happens when a member dies? Eg Naturally of old age...perhaps in most cases nothinb would happen, but a relative might delete their account if they came across it. Perhaps account settings could include an optional statement of inheritance in the case of decease, of copyright eg by iNat? It could be worded less unattractively than that.

Charlie Hohn

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Jan 20, 2019, 4:51:25 PM1/20/19
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Why would a relative delete their deceased loved one's data? I know of at least two iNat users who have died, unfortunately. In one case the profile was reflected to say so but it would be nice for a more formal way to do that. I would certainly hope no one would mess with my observations after i die. 

Colin Meurk

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Jan 20, 2019, 5:01:44 PM1/20/19
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I think rather my point is that one always has to anticipate the worst case ('we' are all normal, right?  But cant account for others :-)) - and sadly one of those is dementure or other psychological illneses that change rationality as one ages. It also requires a slight shift in expectations (and policies) that all data is being overseen by live/active people when clearly this will gradually change and at some point there will be more deceased accounts than living ones! I appreciate these are not exactly happy topics but we have to grasp reality.



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studebakersamuel

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Jan 20, 2019, 8:14:20 PM1/20/19
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Well, To step back a bit, I have been wondering what happens to an account if someone died...I am not active in any other form of internet community...other than occasional bouts of music production technical forum queries..and did not know what happens by default...eg what if the email account is closedm as presumably it would be...is the google account still activr? Etc. All that is a mystery to me. but when a dear  friend died I deleted her contact numbers from my phone. I know iNat is different but people used to social media like facebook might think "she doesn't need this any more". 



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Mark Tutty

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Jan 20, 2019, 8:57:29 PM1/20/19
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There are countless stories of drawers full of pinned and vials full of preserved specimens all being thrown out because those that inherited them saw no value, and didn’t have the connections to pass on to someone who did.

 

cheers
Mark Tutty
kiwif...@gmail.com

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Mark Tutty

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Jan 20, 2019, 10:58:04 PM1/20/19
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Considering the Intellectual Property Rights (IP) side of the subject...

 

People are uploading observations with no expectation of a contract with identifiers, although they are expected to explicitly state whether their photos are full copyright or not. They might be using very expensive equipment that they would like to recover the cost of, or they might like to retain the right to any financial return on those photos to put toward bigger and better gear. At the very least, there is a general public acceptance that a photo is a work that would need permission of some sort before using.

 

An identifier applies an identification to an observation of their own volition, and with the exception of the rather annoying habit lately of tagging the top10 identifiers “making” them look at your observation, it is done so in an unsolicited form. There is little in the way of public perception of the value of that ID or the effort/expertise/knowledge that derived that ID, but there is almost universally a gratitude for it. There is no IP mark applied to say that this identification is the Intellectual Property of the owner, and may not be used to blah blah and so on...

 

Now, if a photo is put up and it is fairly open under Creative Commons, and an identifier puts an ID to it, and then takes a copy of that photo for fair use under the copyright settings the owner has applied, then it becomes a derivative work, with the value added of having the ID. But the original observation is still the IP of the observer. The identifier can do with their derived work as they see fit (within the confines of their rights under that transferance). To put it another way... If I hang a painting in the art gallery and someone writes on it “this is a cool painting”, it does not make it their painting nor does it give them the right to have a say in whether the owner of the painting chooses to destroy it or not. The fact that they have applied the review does not alter or change the ownership of the IP in the painting, and if they wanted their review to be under their own control, they shouldn’t have attached it to my original work. If on the other hand they had taken a copy of the painting and applied their critique to that, then it is protected from being destroyed along with the original.

 

Here’s another way to look at it. If someone shows me a mushroom, and I tell them what it is, I am not going to be annoyed if they forget what it is a week later. But because in iNat there is a persistence to the observation, I might go to a lot more effort to make that ID (maybe going to a deeper level or some effort at looking up literature) because I perceive that observation to be useful to me or to others in the future (maybe in the form of building range maps etc). Does the person who I tell the ID to know that I plan to use his observation in the future, or for that matter how I plan to use it? And if the range maps is my intent, then surely it doesn’t matter if someone deleted their observations, because I would still have a bunch of others that it would build from. Just think about all the material that is collected in personal collections that never makes it to Museum collections. This is no different... we get access to, lets say, 95% of all material that was ACTUALLY collected, and the 5% we never saw is no big deal, vs in iNat we actually get to see (for a brief time) what we are missing out on...

 

Lets continue looking at that notion of 5% loss, or a portion of the collected material (or observations) not making it to, or surviving in, Museum collections. Think of an observation that is under full copyright control of the owner/observer as being “in a private collection”. The owner, or their family after they are deceased, can destroy that material at their discretion. Anyone that has reviewed that collection and applied Ids is going to lose access back to them, unless they took photos of the material while they were there. That is how it is with observations. Then consider the material once it is transferred to a Museum, with the corresponding security and level of curatorial care that that brings. When you review that material now, there are more guarantees that the material will be there in future for you to reference again, simply because it is managed with that intent. How does iNat sit in this sort of context? Is it a personal collection manager that assists us all to see what we each have, that then gets drawn from to populate a more enduring “museum like” archive such as GBIF and so on? Or does our personal collection become the property of the public before we are ready to divest that ownership? As I build my collection, I would like the right to add to it AND amend or delete from it as I see fit, because ultimately it is MY NAME that is on that collection. If I got to the stage of divesting my physical collection, I would like to think that I could choose not to share it if I felt it portrayed me in a bad way, and in a similar vein, if I thought my Full Copyright was being infringed upon, I would most certainly expect the right to delete ALL of my observations and nip that in the bud.

 

I’m not suggesting for a moment that the IP of an identification is not something that we should be considering protecting, just the opposite. I do think that it is unfair to be critical of someone that deletes “their” observation just because you had attached your IP to it. Maybe factoring in a week delay on deleting would allow those that have IP (in the form of Ids and comments) to go through and recover their IP before it takes affect. Or even better still, it could be made so that full copyright observations get deleted, but those that are less restrictive in their rights are retained for the public record.

 

 

cheers
Mark Tutty
kiwif...@gmail.com

 

From: studebakersamuel
Sent: Monday, 21 January 2019 2:14 PM

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Chris Thawley

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Jan 22, 2019, 8:49:33 AM1/22/19
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I fully support the ability of folks who have retained full copyright of their photos to delete all their observations when an account is deleted. No way around that.

However, I believe that for creative commons licensed photos, iNat already has a copy of the image (on their servers) and has added value to it by hosting other info (coordinates, identifications) and associating it with other users' comments.

It seems to me that one implication of the situation as it currently stands (users being able to remove their identifications at any time), is that iNaturalist observation IDs would not be considered permanent records, and therefore not appropriate for most scientific publications. For observation/occurrence data in many journals, that data generally needs to be available in a database that is transparent and (at least designed to be) available in perpetuity. If iNat observations (using the observation number as an identifier) aren't guaranteed to be available in the future, it doesn't really make good sense to treat that as a data repository. Otherwise, those data may not be available to and replicable for future researchers. For isolated observations I've used when publishing, I've usually had them accessioned at an museum (which does fulfill that), so that seems to be a good solution for the present.

Chris Thawley

tony rebelo

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Jan 23, 2019, 6:02:46 AM1/23/19
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I am not sure that I fully understand the full ramifications of this topic and why?

I post observations on iNaturalist, and then after some time decide I want to remove them and do.
Does this mean that iNaturalist must go to all backup and historical copies of the site and delete them as well?
Does this mean that sites that keep time-specific copies of other sites are illegally retaining my data?
Does this mean that to all intents and purposes the data that were on iNaturalist between my posting them and deleting them did not exist and may not exist?

I would argue that copyright and all other issues notwithstanding, once you add something to inaturalist, it should remain there permanently (as long as the site remains).  If you then delete it, the observation  and all other issues associated with contributions, it should be retained and displayed, but marked deleted and date of deletion..

OK, so we need a balance, and the above is the one far extreme.  But I feel that the current iNat policy is the other far extreme and a balance is required.
Certainly, comments and identifications should be permanent.  So long as this is explained up front in the terms and conditions, I dont see any issues.   I also dont think that 99% of users would disagree with it.

Patrick Alexander

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Jan 31, 2019, 3:44:43 AM1/31/19
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I think there's an argument in favor of being able to delete one's data that is being overlooked--or at least that I have not seen mentioned above.

A couple times, I've given data to organizations that didn't give me the ability to subsequently manage that data in a way that presents that data or my own work accurately. I would very much prefer to be able to remove my data entirely in that scenario. If you take biodiversity data seriously, you take misleading biodiversity data seriously. iNaturalist is dramatically better than those organizations, but has some of the same issues (e.g., an observer's original ID can't really be captured and preserved on iNaturalist, while every other biodiversity database I've worked with that's more advanced than an excel spreadsheet has that functionality) and even with good data management, sometimes you'll find yourself in a pickle where it turns out you were wrong and, beyond a certain scale, it simply ceases to be viable to correct the data. So, you either leave it up to mislead others or you delete it. This can be especially problematic if you have data living in multiple places, you soon realize you can't fix the errors in all of them. So, better to have one "real" copy than a "real" copy and a few others that slowly diverge from it over time...

Charlie Hohn

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Jan 31, 2019, 7:47:22 AM1/31/19
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Does any of this apply to IDs though? I feellike deleting IDs is more disruptive to other people and less justifiable. And there's no copyright issue there i can imagine. What is the argument fr letting people delete their IDs? 

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Reuven Martin

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Jan 31, 2019, 9:45:27 AM1/31/19
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There are definitely people who are hesitant to add information anywhere on the internet if they don't have some ability to remove it in the future if they want. I'm not one of them, but it's a valid point of view. I think the potential loss of these users probably far outweighs the potential negative impacts of people deleting their accounts. 

Don't forget that the stated goal of iNaturalist is not foremost scientific data collection: 

"However, despite the fact that iNat can be a bit technical and seems scientific, our primary goal in operating iNaturalist is to connect people to nature"
(https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/what+is+it)

99% of the time this goal is aligned with the goal of scientific data collection. But this is one of the cases where it may not be.

However, I think the option to delete your account without deleting all your data would be valuable.

Charlie Hohn

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Jan 31, 2019, 9:59:14 AM1/31/19
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Honestly, the stated goal makes no sense.  You want to 'connect people with nature' you take them on a hike  or something... iNat is about SHARING information about nature - data, whether it be rigorously collected scientific data points or a picture of an interesting bird at your feeder. I wish this outdated and constantly cited 'goal' would get changed or updated in some way because it doesn't match what the site or community is about at all. If you've got a case where 'connecting people with nature' is damaging or removing data, something has gone wrong and that isn't going to help anyone. It's also, honestly, kind of a destructive attitude. Collecting data about disappearing ecosystem is one of the most important tasks we can do. Yes we need to connect people with nature as well, and it's just as important, but if you don't want to connect via collecting and sharing information, iNat isn't going to be the place for you. No one is going to be looking back in 500 years and thinking 'wow Charlie Hohn really collected with nature in Chickering Fen on July 7, 2016' but people may look back at the data i collected there after whoever many huge changes happen over the centuries and actually want to use it for something. 

In the very least, i think the bar for deleting IDs should be higher than 'threw a temper tantrum because i don't like what someone else named a bird'. We don't let our 3 year old rip up her books or art because she's mad about something like that, and we should expect better behavior from adults here.

Sorry... the 'mission statement' just really bugs me at least in the way it is cited all the time as an excuse to not do good data management.

Charlie Hohn

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Jan 31, 2019, 10:08:00 AM1/31/19