Yahoo!-owned photo-sharing site Flickr has mistakenly deleted 4,000 photos belonging to a photoblogger, who opined that Yahoo! surely must be "fucking kidding".
Mirco Wilhelm, an IT Architect at T-Systems Schweiz, has used Flickr to store and share his photos for five years. He reported a user account to Flickr that contained stolen photos and which had linked to his Flickr account; whereupon Flickr helpfully deleted his account instead of the suspect one, without first suspending it and checking.
Wilhelm tried to log into his Flickr account and found it had vanished. He contacted Flickr and received this response:
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.
Wilhelm was far from satisfied with the post-cockup apology and vented spleen (warning: URL contains swearword) accordingly. His blog was picked up by the Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times and New York Observer. Flickr admin responded, saying they could restore his account and would try to get the photos back.
A Flickr statement to the New York Observer reads:
Flickr takes user trust very seriously and we, like our users, take great pride in being able to take, post and share photos. Our teams are currently working hard to try to restore the contents of this user's account. We are working on a process that would allow us to easily restore deleted accounts and we plan on rolling this functionality out soon.
There seems little chance that Wilhelm will be able to retrieve his photos. Until there are independently vetted service level agreements defining the rights and duties of cloud storage service providers and their users, any storage of data in the cloud is like parking your car at the side of the road with the keys in it. Your data is simply not safe.
Flickr had 21.3 million unique users in December 2010, down 16 per cent from a year earlier. It appears to be suffering defection of users to Facebook and other sites. There are some five billion photos and short videos stored on the site. ®