Yahoo! 'sorry' for deleting Flickr account containing 4000 images [Updated]

With everyone touting the benefits of cloud computing, most people don’t think about the danger that this presents. Mirco Wilhelm, a German photographer, has learned firsthand the dangers involved as Flickr (owned by Yahoo!) accidentally deleted his 4,000 image collection.

The issue started when Mr. Wilhelm contacted Flickr to report another user who had copyrighted material on the site. A couple of days later, he found that he was unable to login to his account so contacted support again and received the following message:

Hello,

Unfortunately, I have mixed up the accounts and accidentally deleted yours. I am terribly sorry for this grave error and hope that this mistake can be reconciled. Here is what I can do from here:

I can restore your account, although we will not be able to retrieve your photos. I know that there is a lot of history on your account—again, please accept my apology for my negligence. Once I restore your account, I will add four years of free Pro to make up for my error.

Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do.
Again, I am deeply sorry for this mistake.

Regards,

Flickr staff

In essence Flickr is offering Mr. Wilhelm a mere $99.80 for the gaffe and while their terms of service state that they have “no responsibility or liability for the deletion or failure to store any messages and other communications or other Content maintained or transmitted by the Yahoo! Services,” what will the company do if users stop trusting their service?

The obvious question is, “Why isn’t Flickr backing up paid accounts?” But the deeper question is whether people should trust their data to be stored and readily accessible via the cloud. While there are definite advantages to the paradigm, the only way to be completely sure that your data is safe and secure is to keep control over it yourself.

[Update] It appears that Flickr has given in to peer pressure. Due to all of the negative publicity, they have now restored all of the photos, comments, and tags and have also extended his subscription through 2036. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

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65 Comments

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It's not the first time flickr staff have screwed their users. I purchased a pro account for a friend who speaks very poor English. She uploaded several photos not knowing she needed to self sensor the content. She signed on a couple days later to find a deleted account. Upon checking her email there were two messages from flickr staff. The first politely requested that she apply restrictions to her images and the second timestamped 18 hours later indicating that her account was deleted due to TOS violations. Needless to say you shouldn't rely on flickr as your only business model in the photography industry. Of course they refused to refund the pro account because it was gifted to her by another member.

yes it is a big f++kin deal.if only for the actual pictures involved yea not a big deal.what are you dumbf++ks going to do when there is only "cloud computing"? ill tell you nothin but sit there and take it in the a$$."cloud computing" is just another form of control. INFORMATION IS POWER and dont forget it.

Thats why i dont trust cloud base services and keep on my have drive important stuff, not quiet sure i want to buy a Windows 8 OS if is merely web base as some reports states.
Feel sorry for that man, whom got wasted houndreds of hours, money and effort building such a large photo collection.

Singh400 said,
WTF? How do they not have backups?!
im sure they do have backups and im sure if they need to gather deleted info they can.

njlouch said,
Flickr is for sharing. So surely he had the originals storred... That's sensible.

I'm sure he does - but all of the links on the internet that point to his site are now broken. All of the tags he had are now gone. All of the comments he had on his photos are now

There's something to be said for hosting your own stuff.

Fezmid said,

There's something to be said for hosting your own stuff.

I agree

If the links and comments were that important, it would seem he would have been better off with a full website he had control over than just an image host. With his own web host he could have had a backup of the entire site including all links and comments that could be restored. Even if he transferred his site to a different host all the links would be maintained if set up properly.

There is a difference between loss due to failure, and a loss due to negligence. Whether it was a mistake or not, it was INTENTIONAL. The account was deleted by choice, even if the account deleted was removed because of a terminally stupid employee.

**** happens. If he did not backup his own files then tough....
Backing up 4000 photos does not take much room. Get a couple 3Tb drivers and you are set.

ozyborn said,
**** happens. If he did not backup his own files then tough....
Backing up 4000 photos does not take much room. Get a couple 3Tb drivers and you are set.
the data-loss isn't his issue, he had his own backups, the problem is all the links to and comments on those 4000 images...

but should they be backing up photos? as far as i'm aware flickr is a photo sharing site, not a photo backup site. it's not marketed as such.

having to back up all that stuff would be very expensive.

if you rely on a sharing site to store the material without having a real backup, that is your own problem.

4 years for inconvenience is a good deal.

Skin said,
if you rely on a sharing site to store the material without having a real backup, that is your own problem.

4 years for inconvenience is a good deal.


Read some comments, like just above

Cloud computing is great as an off site backup. But for god sake, make some local backups as well. 1 copy of anything is NOT a backup. If you only have 1 copy of a file, then that file does not exist. If that file gets deleted it's gone forever.

Use the 3 - 2 - 1 Backup strategy

3 Backups
On 2 Different media's
1 Off site.

warwagon said,
Cloud computing is great as an off site backup. But for god sake, make some local backups as well. 1 copy of anything is NOT a backup. If you only have 1 copy of a file, then that file does not exist. If that file gets deleted it's gone forever.

Use the 3 - 2 - 1 Backup strategy

3 Backups
On 2 Different media's
1 Off site.


the data-loss isn't his issue, he had his own backups, the problem is all the links to and comments on those 4000 images...

Even though the site states 0 liability. How would you react if you uploaded a picture today and all of sudden it was gone tomorrow? Then what are you paying for? Nothing! Giving away your money is what you're doing.

Not sure I see what the problem is here. No where on Flickr's site does it state that it is a backup site, its to share photos. If you are dumb enough to rely on this as your primary storage then you get whats coming to you. He should be happy that they gave him the 4 years free.

jerzdawg said,
Not sure I see what the problem is here. No where on Flickr's site does it state that it is a backup site, its to share photos. If you are dumb enough to rely on this as your primary storage then you get whats coming to you. He should be happy that they gave him the 4 years free.

Read this, please:

Argote said,
This is terrible, a lot of people rely on previously made comments and favorites to browse others' collections. This could mean a lot less traffic and exposure for him.

It isn't all about backups and file loss.

LaserWraith said,

Read this, please:
It isn't all about backups and file loss.

Agreed, but if he was doing this for any sort of income or business then he should have some sort of backup plan. You cant put all your eggs in one basket. I def agree that this is a huge error on Flickrs part but this should not be Front page news for Neowin or any other site (maybe a photo sharing site blog).

Jedimark said,
They made a genuine mistake, were humbly appologetic and offered compensation - get over it.

Yes, but that mistake probably shouldn't have happened. People who pay should have some protection against a random staff deleting accounts. At least, a 5-day or so backup in case of mistakes.

Jedimark said,
They made a genuine mistake, were humbly appologetic and offered compensation - get over it.

I hope karma will let a similar thing happen to you.

Jedimark said,
They made a genuine mistake, were humbly appologetic and offered compensation - get over it.

Yeah, everyone makes mistakes but there should be some form of damage control in place. Why on earth would a website as popular as Flickr not make backups of their data?!

thenonhacker said,

I hope karma will let a similar thing happen to you.

Karma means your actions in this life will reflect on what you are reincarnated as in the next life or in simplified version: What goes comes around comes around.

Now why would "Karma" let a similar thing happen to +Jedimark? Do you even KNOW what Karma is?

MindTrickz said,

Karma means your actions in this life will reflect on what you are reincarnated as in the next life or in simplified version: What goes comes around comes around.

Now why would "Karma" let a similar thing happen to +Jedimark? Do you even KNOW what Karma is?

Buy being rude to somebody, he is saying that karma could make the same thing happen to him and see how he likes it.

Makes sense to me

This is terrible, a lot of people rely on previously made comments and favorites to browse others' collections. This could mean a lot less traffic and exposure for him.

Argote said,
This is terrible, a lot of people rely on previously made comments and favorites to browse others' collections. This could mean a lot less traffic and exposure for him.

Agreed, I can't say the number of times i've gone to X photo because of a comment or because someone tagged it as favorite.

Doli said,

Flickr: Image hosting not cloud storage.


Cloud computing is nothing new, we've been doing it all for years. It IS the same as remote storage, hosting, remote execution like Unix shells, etc. Now they've renamed it and are integrating it further as primary desktop functions, sometimes replacing similar local functions entirely.

Yikes. People have backups, but with the advent of cloud storage... people might want to be more weary.

lunamonkey said,

Do backup services offer a second back up in case they delete your files?


The serious ones probably make backups of all they data regularly yes...
Still, the data-loss isn't his issue, he had his own backups, the problem is all the links to and comments on those 4000 images...

Leonick said,

The serious ones probably make backups of all they data regularly yes...
Still, the data-loss isn't his issue, he had his own backups, the problem is all the links to and comments on those 4000 images...

Time to start thinking of a decent naming convention and a decent "link map" to enable users to re-upload.

The links generated should be available in a .csv format along with the image name making it easier for users to "resolve" the problems.

Shame that this would be a little too late in this case though.

Well, it needs to be noted that this doesnt really have anything to do with "cloud computing" the problem here was a human error, the "cloud" was just doing what it was told to do.

reidtheweed01 said,
Well, it needs to be noted that this doesnt really have anything to do with "cloud computing" the problem here was a human error, the "cloud" was just doing what it was told to do.

Well the "Cloud" has to be managed by someone; so it is a "Cloud" related issue in my book. Granted the same could happen if I delete a folder in our backup server but in the case of the "Cloud" you delegate your trust to a third party.

At least he can recover some photos from the people infringing on his work... not really an upside to the debacle though.

zeke009 said,
At least he can recover some photos from the people infringing on his work... not really an upside to the debacle though.

Google Cache still has his works, maybe they can recover it from there.

If he's a paid user, then he's being compensated just fine (4 years sounds reasonable given what they did).

he should have the original files somewhere

Julius Caro said,
If he's a paid user, then he's being compensated just fine (4 years sounds reasonable given what they did).

he should have the original files somewhere


Not really, since many people rely on Flickr as a way to show their work to potential clients. Having that completely wiped can potentially cause a huge impact on him. Obviously we don't know his situation, so lets hope it hasn't caused him any major inconveniences.

SuperKid said,
No, no, no, no! Always keep a backup when storing things online!!

Even if he has a backup, he still lost the valuable comments and link-backs. The owner mentioned that here:
http://bindermichi.posterous.c...ve-to-****ing-kidding-yahoo

"So how can this really compensate losing close to 4000 "linked" pictures from my web albums? I have to recreate most of these links manually, which will take weeks, if not months of my free time! Not to mention, external websites that had linked these images (including some official Yahoo! and Flickr blogs)."

Ok guys, try reading the source. He's not dumb enough to have those as his only source for the photos. He had all of them backed up, the major inconvenience is trying to relink EACH and EVERY photo of those 4000.
You try relinking 100 photos and tell me that isn't a major waste of time. 4000 will just destroy his free time.

So no, he was not compensated well for their mistake. 4 years of premium service (worth only $100) for a mistake that will cost him personally many weeks worth of extra time to fix? I would ditch flickr for that. Though I've never used it or cared to.

FYI: He's an IT Architect, so it's not his main job. Looks like just a hobby.

In my day job I actually work as an IT Architect. I do designs on complex infrastructures, delivery processes and related stuff. Going from an activ account to a deleted account is pretty much a NO-GO in any enterprise environment, because of these consequences. If you do something wrong your can't undo it again, without recreating every single setting from scratch.
That's why it's VERY common to first “DEACTIVATE” accounts and repeat an evaluation… in this case: Me noticing a problem and contacting support to fix it.

Since Flickr had deleted the account an all the related object, they cannot reactivate anything more that the account itself, leaving me with an empty shell of what I did during the last 5 years. This would be acceptable, if I had a free account. But since I'm a paying customer, I would expect a bit more that a “Again, I am deeply sorry for this mistake.”

I agree. You don't delete first, you deactivate THEN make a judgement call after re-evaluation.

Edit: D: thenonhacker beat me to it. Still, people need to read the source sometimes for a better report.

0sm3l said,
Ouch! That happens to me and I wouldn't be happy unless they gave me a pro account for life lol

Com'on man. sue them for million dollars.