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Flickr Accidentally Wipes Out Account: Five Years And 4,000 Photos Down The Drain

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Yahoo’s Flickr may have another PR nightmare on their hands. IT architect and Flickr user Mirco Wilhelm couldn’t log on to his 5-year old account yesterday, and when he asked the Flickr team about this issue they flat out told him they had accidentally flushed his entire account, and the 4,000 photos that were in it, straight down the drain.

Apparently Wilhelm reported a Flickr user with an account that held ‘obviously stolen material’ to the company last weekend, but a staff member erroneously incinerated his account instead of the culprit’s.

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

Ouch.

What amazes me most about this story is how calmly Wilhelm reacts to the termination of his account:

It is kind of nice, getting an additional 4 years of service subscription for free… but I already received free Pro subscriptions for the next year just by taking part in some events and competitions.

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).

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 expect at least a process that can undo this kind of mistakes. For any other kind of compensation, I will take some time to consult.

I’ve never been a big Flickr user, but I had always assumed a simple click of the button couldn’t delete an account and its content altogether, rather than simply deactivate it.

It never occurred to me that a team member could just wipe out accounts without the means to reactivate them if it turned out to be a mistake.

And what about backups for Christ’s sake?

For what it’s worth, Flickr’s Zack Sheppard commented in the Flickr forum thusly:

We’ve been working on the ability to restore accounts for a while and hope to have it completed early this year.

We have been in contact with Mirco and may be able to restore his account. The partial work that has been done so far may make it possible to retrieve the account. It’s only a maybe but we want to try and do everything we can to rectify this mistake.

Just as people have stated above, we also believe this is an important feature to have in place for cases like this when there was an error. As many of you know we usually do not discuss features before they are released but because of the community concern we wanted to let you know in this case.

So basically there hasn’t been a way for Flickr to restore accidentally removed paid accounts since the company was founded, maybe they can do something about Mirco’s account (you have to wonder what would have happened hadn’t he raised a big stink about this in the first place) and users should be so lucky that Flickr is letting them know they might be able to restore erroneously terminated accounts at some point in the future.

Duly noted.

UPDATE: Yahoo issued this response:

Yesterday, Flickr mistakenly deleted a member’s account due to human error. 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 in touch with the member and are currently working hard to try to restore the contents of his account. In addition, we are providing the member with 25 years of free Flickr Pro membership. We are also actively working on a process that will allow us to easily restore deleted accounts and will roll this functionality out soon.

UPDATE 2:

Yahoo! is pleased to share that the Flickr team has fully restored a member’s account that was mistakenly deleted yesterday. We regret the human error that led to the mistake and have worked hard to rectify the situation, including reloading the entire photo portfolio and providing the member with 25 years of free Flickr Pro membership. Flickr takes the trust of our members very seriously and we appreciate the patience shown by this member and our community. Flickr will also soon roll out functionality that will allow us to restore deleted accounts more easily in the future.

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